Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Astronaut Dreams
by Joseph Green
and R-M Lillian

Virus Smugglers
by Erin Lale

Clone Music
by Guy T. Martland

Adventure of the Durham Monograph
by Robert Dawson

by Timothy J. Gawne

Too Much to Dream
by Richard Zwicker

Tour de Force
by Richard Wren

by Stephen L. Antczak

Shorter Stories

Free Wi-Fi at the Bordello
by Santiago Belluco

Ambivalence of Memory
by Jamie Lackey

Welcome, Distant Traveler
by Andrew Vrana


Pandemic: Zika
by John McCormick

Descent and Ascent
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





Ambivalence of Memory

By Jamie Lackey

THE FIRST TIME, THE ALIEN SHIPS appeared without warning. They arrived all over the world in a single instant, and the power flickered out. I was at my grandparents’ farm, a hundred miles from anywhere, and we could see one of the ships, a black spot in the blue sky. My grandpa looked up at it, shading his eyes, and grunted.

“What is it?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I reckon it’s the aliens, Cindy.”

They had a list of each human on the planet, and we were each assigned a number, a reporting station, and a time.

We obeyed without protest.

I don’t remember why.

I stood in line with my grandparents, the sun beating down as we inched our way along the sidewalk. There were no aliens in the reporting station, just people wearing matching orange shirts.

They checked us off on their list, and we filed into a waiting room.

I don’t remember being scared, but that doesn’t mean much.

When my number was called, I got up and followed a woman in an orange shirt into a big room that had been divided into small sections with heavy gray curtains.

“This will hurt just a little,” she said, then pressed a needle into my finger. She caught the drop of blood that welled up in a tiny plastic chip. “Now, just wait here.”

I don’t remember what happened next. The aliens don’t let us keep memories of them. I do remember a voice, rough and raspy and sad, saying, “Do you understand the choice before you, child?”

I know I gave them memories. We all did. None of us tried to fight.

It didn’t seem odd at the time, that no one fought.

I don’t know what they took. Did I have dark memories before that strange, hot day? Did I ever wake up in the middle of the night, reliving some violence that has now been wiped away? Or did I just lose little things, like a fall from a swing or tears over a broken doll?

I do not remember what happened to my parents.

My grandparents would never answer my questions. Did they not remember, too? Or did they just not want to tell me?

I can’t decide which is worse.

I can’t find any records of my parents anywhere, not in the newspaper, not online. Did the aliens come and alter things? No one remembers them doing so.

But then, we wouldn’t.


When they came again, we all reported to our stations.

I remember sitting on a hard blue plastic chair, still not quite tall enough that my feet touched the floor. I remember the exact texture of those curtains, and the musty smell of them.

I have to trust that my memories are real. That even though they can take things away, they can’t alter or add to what is left behind.

I have to trust it.

But sometimes I can’t.


I was in my elementary school cafeteria, drinking chocolate milk from a cardboard carton, thinking about a math test. Then there is a gap. My next memory is from the summer, a road trip to the beach.

What could have happened in those months? Why would the aliens take them?

That is my biggest gap. I’ve talked to some people who lost years.

We all seem to have our biggest gaps in 2018. I have yet to meet anyone who remembers all of it, and no one remembers anything from the month of April.

No one.

What happened in April, 2018? It was less than a year before the aliens came. Is it why they came?

There is no sign of what makes that month special. The Internet history has no blank spots, no days when no one posted.


One long winter evening during winter break I found a photo album beneath my grandparents’ bed. It was filled with old pictures, of unfamiliar laughing faces. A wedding, then a trip Paris.

From the names and dates scribbled on them in blue pen, I know these are my parents.

Later in the album, the two strangers are holding a baby together.

The baby isn’t me. It’s dated two years before my birth, and the name “Zach” is written on the back. His hair is much lighter than mine, but our eyes are the same.


“Did I have a brother?” I asked.

My grandparents furrowed their brows, confused by the question.

My grandmother patted my hand and poured me a tall glass of iced tea. “Not that we recall, sweetie.”

After dinner, I went to my room to find a notebook. I would start a journal. Have a record of who I was, from here on out.

I found books already filled with my own handwriting, with careful dates in the corners of the pages.

I didn’t remember writing them.

They were childish ramblings about the farm and school and a boy I liked. Nothing worth remembering. Nothing worth forgetting. I flipped through the journals, looking for April, 2018.

The pages had been torn out.

On the page after, I’d written myself a message. “You don’t want to know,” I’d scrawled. “Trust me. When I’m you, even if I think I want to know, I really don’t.”

The handwriting on the note didn’t quite match the previous pages—it looked like I’d written it years later.

I scowled at the page and wished that I could trust myself.

But I didn’t even know myself.


The aliens came back later that year. “You’ve been digging again, 46218,” the woman in the orange shirt said.

Of course, in my memory she is a woman in an orange shirt. But I don’t think that is what I really saw, that day.

I stared at the gray curtain.

She sighed. “You were very young when the choice was made, but you did make it.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“And that is the choice you made.” She rubbed her temples. “Your people called us here and asked us to erase something that your species had done. Each of you made a choice, to stay and forget or to go and remember. We cannot undo what we have done. You cannot alter your choice.”

“Did my parents choose to remember?”

“Some of the ones who are gone chose to go. Others died.”

“Died? How?”

“You do not want to know.”

“How can you know that?”

She hit a button and a screen flickered to light. Tiny me sat in a blue plastic chair. “I understand the choice,” I said on the screen, my face serious. “I understand, and I don’t want to remember.” My small serious face crumpled into tears. “Please, please, help me forget.”

I could not imagine being that little girl.

The screen flickered, and there I was again, older this time. I looked stunned, exhausted. “They let me reevaluate my choice. I—I don’t remember, but I know. And I don’t want to. I choose to forget.” On screen, I blinked back tears. “Don’t let me do this to myself again.”

“How can I trust myself?” I asked. “I don’t know who I am.” I looked up at her. “You know me better than I do.”

“I could take more memories. Enough to ease your doubts. But I won’t. Not today. I will let you keep this session in your mind. Maybe you’ll learn to trust yourself. If not, well, we have a long contract with your people.”

She kissed my forehead, and I felt a little dizzy.

“I can tell you one thing—the act that your species chose to forget was not an accident. It was itself a choice, one that your people found they could not live with. Those that left attempt to make reparations. So far, they have failed.”

I went home. I thought about choices and memory and my mother.

Not remembering her hurt. I hadn’t even known my brother’s name. How could I have chosen that?

What could we have done that was so terrible?

Did choosing to forget instead of living with guilt make us weak? Make us monsters?

I built a bonfire and burned my journals. I stood watching them burn for a long time.

I was tired of looking back, of trying to define myself based on the patchwork past, based on decisions that I didn’t understand. I thought of the two younger versions of me, each burdened with knowledge that they didn’t want—that I didn’t have.

Neither of them looked very happy.

I wondered if my mother was happy.

I threw the photo album on the fire, too, and watched my past burn. END

Jamie Lackey is an active member of SFWA. Her stories have been published in many publications including “Daily Science Fiction,” “Beneath Ceaseless Skies,” and “Penumbra.” She last appeared in the 12-JUN-2014 “Perihelion.”



Also by Jamie Lackey


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