Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Narrative of a Slave
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Song of C
by Jørn Arnold Jensen

Ready or Not
by Holly Schofield

Each Day I Walk These Hollow Streets
by Andrew Barton

Neanderthal Autumn
by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

Plasma Breach
by Mord McGhee

By the Light of Several Silvery Moons
by Eamonn Murphy

Packrat Machine
by Karl Dandenell

Shorter Stories

Teaching Acute Coronary Syndrome to an Alien
by Devin Miller

by Bill Suboski

We’ve Only Just Begun
by Chris Bullard


Tales From the Greenhouse
by Joseph Green

And a Tale of the Tail
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips






By Bill Suboski

JOY LAY ON THE LOUNGER IN the observatory. Globular cluster M4, seen from within, still left her breathless even after seven years. As hard as these years had been, boring, frustrating, depressing, trapped 12,400 light years from Earth on Chester Station, this view always brought her peace.

The path collapsed after she had stayed behind. Those had been hard days. As the years passed she had started gliding. Taking what she could from each day and waiting for that future day when things would change.

In the interim, Maincore Alan had built her the observatory, a small round room twelve meters across topped with a clear dome. She lay wrapped in a puffy blanket lazily watching the stars move across the dome with the rotation of the tiny moon.

“Alan ... why don’t I ever get sick?”

An idle question and the answer a soft tenor from the surrounding darkness.

“I believe you know the answer, Joyous.”

“Yes, I think I do, I guess what I am asking is, do you think I should get sick sometimes?”

“I could let some viruses through ... not correct minor nutritional deficiencies. That would make you feel run-down at times.”

“Mmmmm. I am not asking that. I just am not sure that never being sick—always being well—is actually completely healthy.”

She waited but no answer came. “Alan?”

“We can try it, Joyous.”

“Why did you pause?”

A much longer pause this time.

“Because you were sick, Joy. Very sick. You almost died.” A pause. “Do you want to know this?”

She nodded, feeling numb.

“Do you remember four years ago ... that night that I detected a carrier, but could not open a path? A few weeks after, at 4:22 one morning, you stopped breathing. Forty seconds later your heart stopped.” A long pause. “You have stopped breathing for a few seconds in the past, and since, but this time was different. You had in the space of a few hours developed a medium aneurysm which burst. Neurosurgery was necessary but I did not have sufficient density of ufog elements in your vicinity and it was seventy seconds before I was able to begin.”

Her mouth was dry and her tongue felt paralyzed. She had known that Maincores monitored human staff. She had known and read of Maincores performing surgery ... but she had never encountered an actual case of it.

“Feel along your forehead above your nose. Slide your finger back and forth. Do you feel that slight bump? That is where I opened your skull.”

Her eyes were wet. She did not feel sad. She didn’t feel much of anything. The tears were from the intensity only. She imagined herself, her body, dying in bed, and her forehead, her face, struck and split by a ufog axe. Despite the watering eyes, she felt nothing.

She had noticed that strange bump years ago. Something was different. But she had not known what to make of it—even mostly imagined she had imagined it—and not thought further of it.

“You recorded it. You could show me.”

“Of course ...”

“Tell me instead.”

“The bleed was deep in the left parietal lobe. I made an anterior slice from the top of the head to just above the eyes halfway to the back of the skull. I then separated the two sides very slightly and passed an explorer down the corpus callosal fissure. The explorer extended through live brain tissue to the bleed causing a tunnel two mm wide—a calculated risk.”

“The bleed was severe. Because the vessel had burst, it was in poor condition. I initially bound it with ufog, suctioned the blood, which I reprocessed and transfused back. I nanofactured a stent and set about to stimulate and strengthen the surrounding vessel.”

“How long did you have me open?”

“Seventy-five minutes. I assisted the bone suturing but wanted it to grow back more naturally. I stimulated all tissue to speed healing and I kept you under for four days.”

“Alan ... how much of you did the surgery require?”

“Joyous ... a hard question ... like asking which is the most powerful nation, or the tastiest dish ... most of the operation required four percent with occasional brief spikes at a maximum of nine percent.”

Amazing ... Alan had performed brain surgery using no more than one-tenth of his cognitive resources.

“Why did this happen?”

“Who knows? Bad luck, a plate of pasta you once ate, microwaves from Martians. It really was most unpredictable.”

“Those Martian microwaves have quite the range.”

“Yes, Joyous, they certainly do.” A pause. “Shall I investigate further station shielding?”

She smiled. She wasn’t sure what to think. No emotional reaction as yet. That would come, in days or weeks ... it was easiest to think of it as a piece of news, and hardest to imagine herself as the subject. She had been morbidly tempted to actually see it, have Alan recreate the operation in ufog. But some things, once seen, can never be unseen.

If the path had not collapsed ... and she had returned to Earth or Titan Station or the Nest, and the aneurysm had occurred ... she probably would have died. How very strange. This cold isolation—trapped with Alan—had saved her life. Only being here—Alan’s sole human focus—had allowed the very immediate medical care that kept her whole.

“Joy ... one more thing ... I left a jellybean inside you. It seemed prudent. I apologize for the invasion ... but you almost died.”

In strict use, “jellybean” referred only to those slightly larger than a jellybean structures, a bicameral library and factory, that in the right matrix—ordinary soil—could recreate any and all human technology. A jellybean was the ultimate lifeboat. Toss it into a mudhole and it would generate whatever was needed. The ultimate Turing machine, operating a nanofactory and drawing from an enormous library. Chester Station had started as a jellybean.

But the term had become debased and broadened and was now commonly applied to any sophisticated, albeit special purpose, device. Alan had left what amounted to a neurosurgeon inside her brain, semi-activated and ready to operate in seconds.

And Alan had guessed that she would not like the jellybean. And he was right. But there was a larger issue: the fact that he told her—he could have kept silent—meant that she could trust him. The stars whirled overhead. The stars whirled overhead. She lay snuggled in a perfect and protected peace and the stars whirled overhead.

Now the tears were real. She was overwhelmed and brimful ... so very grateful. She shuddered under the blanket as her breath caught. Tears became sobs. Words so long unsaid ... held back ... I am loved ... the words not uttered since Jacob fell from her, “I love you.”

The answering voice so very gentle in the dark: “Sometimes ... at night ... when your hair falls across your eyes and you stir ... I smooth it away. Sleep well, Joyous.” END

Bill Suboski is a systems analyst when he is not writing. He has an associates degree in business computing and experience coding for diverse systems. His previous flash fiction for us, “Agamemnon,” was published in the 12-SEP-2014 issue.




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