Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Falling Sun
by Arley Sorg

With Hostile Intent
by Eamonn Murphy

Between First Dawn and Last Dusk
by Emily McCosh

by Stephen L. Antczak

Black Starburst
by Barry Charman

Captain Loop Jamaan’s Conversion
by Trevor Doyle

Tumbler’s Gift
by Geoff Nelder

Zoo Hack
by James Van Pelt

Shorter Stories

Terminate and Stay Resident
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

World Champion
by Sean Mulroy

I Love Lupi
by Holly Schofield


It’s a Puzzlement
by Terry Stickels

It’s Invisible
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





By Stephen L. Antczak

BEATRIX HIT LAND AS A CATEGORY seven hurricane, the most powerful hurricane anyone had ever seen, period. No, make that exclamation point. The most powerful hurricane anyone had ever seen!

They added two categories to the Beaufort scale of hurricanes just for Beatrix.

She sideswiped the Venezuelan rainforest like a drunk driver in a high-speed police chase, ripping up more organic matter in a few hours than existed in the entirety of the state of New Mexico, and then some. Beatrix wasn’t just the latest in a line of ever larger, more powerful, seemingly vengeful hurricanes bent on reminding Homo sapiens that global warming wasn’t just another catchphrase to fling around on talk radio.

No, Beatrix meant business.

Even after she dipped into the Orinoco, Beatrix didn’t slow down and didn’t lose intensity one iota. Back out to sea she went, and headed straight for South Florida and the seven million people who made their home in the sun, sand, and surf of Paradise on Earth. But the trajectory for Beatrix showed her making a sudden, sharp left at Cuba and missing South Florida for the most part, maybe just barely kissing the Everglades before heading out into the Gulf of Mexico and thence to ... well, who cared? Texas? Louisiana? Old Mexico herself?

So, in South Florida, they did what they always do: they started drinking at nine a.m. and ignored the rest of the world, and especially ignored Beatrix.

First in Beatrix’s path, the oil rigs and a couple of erstwhile cruise ships. They thought they had time and would be well and gone before Beatrix arrived like a despised ex-spouse and ruined everything. But the hurricane picked up speed, faster than any other before her, and overcame the cruise ships before they could get out of her way, and enveloped the oil rigs before their crews could be flown to the mainland.

And then she sat there in the water and waited, as if digesting her appetizers before diving into the main course. She sat there and churned up the same vacant part of the ocean for a solid week. By the end of that week the two cruise ships were found floating free almost two hundred miles away. No survivors, and bodies stripped down to the bones. Scientists flew out to the ships to examine what was left, pleading to anyone who would listen to leave everything undisturbed so they could get an idea of just what the hell had happened, while religious authorities demanded a mass burial at sea immediately.

The religious authorities won, faith trumped science once again, and the ships were sunk as gigantic coffins, taking the secrets of the dead down to the ocean floor. The scientists had to content themselves with the sparsely manned oil rigs and the skeletal remains of their crews. But there wasn’t enough time, because once again Beatrix was on the move.

She made an about face, a sudden sharp right and headed straight for unsuspecting, rollicking South Florida in a mad overnight dash around the southern tip of the state, and at a speed faster than anyone had thought possible for a hurricane. The hungover denizens of Miami-Dade were caught with their bikini bottoms and board shorts down, as Beatrix moved in to make a statement. But the citizens of the west coast of Florida were to feel her wrath before them.


Gregory Pine was known around the town of Cape Coral, Florida, as a bit of a crackpot inventor. He’d been working on what he liked to call a “hurricane suit” that would allow a man to stand in the middle of a hurricane with little concern for his safety. Of course, it had yet to be tested. He’d been watching Beatrix closely, had been disappointed when it looked like she might head west, and then elated when she turned back towards South Florida overnight. Just as the red-green rays of the rising sun reached across the state to tickle the angry-looking clouds over the Gulf of Mexico, Pine donned his “hurricane suit” and went for a walk.

As long as Beatrix didn’t bring a massive storm surge to flood the city, Pine figured himself to be in good shape. Sure, his suit had been built to withstand a somewhat less potent monster than Beatrix, basically a hurricane on the order of Category 3 or maybe a 4, but that didn’t deter him. The hurricane suit was essentially a suit of armor, partly inspired by the comic book character Iron Man, partly inspired by the science fiction novel “Starship Troopers,” and partly inspired by Pine’s longtime fascination with hurricanes and a desire to stand in the midst of one and experience its full force on his own two feet.

While the residents of Cape Coral were probably less prone to hedonistic pursuits than those of Miami, they were still mostly caught unawares. Pine himself nearly missed out on the opportunity, save for his shortwave radio, which reported news of the sudden turn, as it were, of events.

So, he found himself standing out there in his armored suit as the hurricane sawed across Cape Coral. The only others to brave the out-of-doors as Beatrix made landfall were TV news crews, the police, fire fighters, paramedics, surfers, and drunks.

What Gregory Pine witnessed that morning might have driven him to the edge of insanity, had he survived. Luckily, he had a digital video recorder built into the suit’s helmet. Because no one would have believed him, otherwise.


The howling winds and lashing rains were bad enough, ripping up the roofs of buildings downtown, pushing parked cars into each other, spinning stop signs around like tops. One police car headed down Main Street and a gust of wind lifted it completely into the air and then slammed it back down twenty feet to the left, onto the sidewalk, shattering its windows. Transformers exploded all over town.

Gregory Pine’s video recorder took it all in as Gregory himself hollered a running commentary that could barely be heard over the howl of the winds, the roar of thunder, and the constant sizzle of the torrential downpour.

“That’s Sergeant Oliveri, CCPD!” Gregory yelled. “He’s okay! He’s getting out ... wait! Something just ... he’s got his gun ... his clothes ripped right off of him and ... ripping his flesh off ... ow! Something just bit me! What the—?”

Beatrix churned up Cape Coral and the surrounding landscape for a few hours, and then dipped back out to sea, just off the coast, long enough for emergency services to descend on the scene. Pine’s video was discovered by a Weather Channel producer and late night anchor, Hale Callahan, who watched it on his laptop in his motel room a little further inland just off I-75.

And what Hale saw made him afraid. It also excited him. This, he realized, was his ticket to meteorological greatness.


The segment started with the devastation left by Beatrix. A torn up town, windows shattered, roofs ripped off buildings, telephone poles splintered, wires down, flooding, fires, and bodies stripped of flesh down to bare bones, including poor old Gregory Pine.

Hale’s voice-over: “There is no fury like the fury of Mother Nature who, in her wrath, has devastated the once beautiful, fun-loving city of Cape Coral. Ten thousand people have been declared dead or missing in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the United States in centuries.”

“Centuries?” someone behind Hale asked. He stopped the playback and turned to face his archrival weather person, and erstwhile lover, Mona King. “Why not just say ever?”

“Centuries sounds more imposing.”

“Imposing?” She shook her head. “You’re an idiot.”

Mona was the epitome of the cable TV weatherwoman, with long sleek blonde hair, full lips, crystal blue eyes, large breasts which lent themselves to low-cut tops to show off her cleavage, a narrow waist, etc., etc. Her Twitter handle was @weatherkitten. She liked to make sexual innuendos, such as when their producer would say, “Mona, stay on top of that,” in reference to a story, and she’d reply, “You know I love being on top.”

She was also the second most ambitious person on the team, next to Hale himself. Although, she would argue that point.

“Is there something you want?” he asked.

“I want to see the footage you found.”

“No way, Mona. Not happening.”

“I’ll trade you something for it,” she said with a coquettish smile. He sighed. Damn it, he thought. But then he found a reserve of strength somewhere deep inside.

“No,” he said, and felt proud of himself.

“I’ll give you your favorite thing,” she said. And the reserve of strength disappeared just like that.



Mona replayed the video over and over in her mind. Thousands of men, women, and children reduced to skeletons, the flesh shredded from their bodies by flying piranhas. One scene stuck with her: A dog trotting down the street holding someone’s femur in its jaws.

There was something about that, something that disturbed her more than just the obvious thing. A dog trotting down the street holding someone’s femur in its jaws. She tossed and turned in bed and finally had to admit to herself that sleep would not come until she figured out what was bothering her. It was something to do with that damn dog and that damn femur.

She sat up and pulled off her sleep mask, yanked out her ear plugs, threw off her silk covers, and scooted to edge of the king-sized bed. The soft blue numerals on her bedside clock told her it was one thirty in the morning. To hell with it, she decided to have a drink and sit for a while.

A glass of bourbon would do the trick, and some fresh air, so she poured herself one and stepped out onto the balcony of her Midtown Atlanta apartment and stood by the railing. Hale had commented about how the images of angry piranha flying through the air would be worth a Newsy award at the very least. Mona had to agree; being at the leading edge of this story would be a career-maker.

Out there, less than a thousand miles away, raged Beatrix, a hurricane teeming with angry piranha. Angry piranha?

That made Mona think. Why angry? It certainly seemed that way when she watching the video. Of course, piranha just naturally look angry, but there was something about the way they went after people. One incident from the video struck her as highlighting the anger she believed she was seeing: when a woman had run out of her house after a window broke, and a river of flying piranha had chased her down the street, caught her up into the air, and then ripped her clothes off before ripping her flesh off, and letting the bones fall to the ground—as if the intent had been to humiliate first, and then to kill.

In fact, it was her femur that a dog had taken off with a moment later.

Mona sipped her drink. It was that dog. Why was that damn dog still alive? Why hadn’t the piranha reduced it to a pile of bones, too? Did piranha not eat dogs for some reason?

She knew someone she could call with a question like that, luckily: noted celebrity animal behaviorist Sir Nevill Briswain. She wasn’t sure where in the world he was at that moment, but pulled up his number and sent a text.

Can you talk?

A moment later, she got a reply: Now?

Yes, now.


She pressed the call button, and pressed the phone to her ear.

“Hullo, luv,” came Nevill’s uppercrust British accent. She could almost hear the twinkle in his eye.

“Nevill, do you know anything about piranha fish?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Why?”

She didn’t know what to tell him. Was it general knowledge that Beatrix was a piranha hurricane? She didn’t want to reveal more than she had to, not yet.

“Is there any reason why piranhas would attack humans but not dogs?” she asked.

“No, not that I am aware of,” Nevill replied. “I do not believe piranha are very discriminating.”


“Why do you ask?”

“If I told you that I saw piranha fish attacking humans, even going out of their way to attack people, but leaving animals like dogs alone, what would you say about that?” she asked.

“I would say that is very strange indeed. I would also say it sounds to me like there is more to the story. If I remember correctly, you are a meteorologist, aren’t you my dear?”

“That’s right.”

“And what is it you’re not telling me about this piranha attack?” Nevill asked.

Mona didn’t say anything.

“Might it have something to do with the oil rig and cruise ship that were found inhabited by skeletons after an encounter with hurricane Beatrix?”

“How do you know about that?”

“You’re not the only dalliance I’ve had in the arena of atmospheric science, my dear,” Nevill said. “I do hope that doesn’t upset you.”

Mona almost laughed; she was hardly surprised that Nevill had made other “friends with benefits” in her field. He was a notorious rapscallion despite his fame as a twinkle-eyed naturalist and science communicator with a childlike glee for studying animal behavior.

“It is most fascinating,” Nevill said. “I recently read a paper regarding a massive upsurge in the population of piranha in the Orinoco, by a hundredfold, right where Beatrix settled for a while before moving on. The paper predicted that a massive hurricane sucking up moisture from the Orinoco would also find itself inhabited by something on the order of tens of millions of piranha, if such should happen at precisely the right time, meaning at the top of the curve of the population numbers, before overpopulation resulted in a collapse of the species, as is wont to happen when a single species becomes overly populous and puts such a strain on its environment that the environment turns against it.”

Known for his tendency for prolixity, Nevill did not disappoint now, but Mona was stunned by the implications of what she’d just heard.

“How can piranha fish survive inside a hurricane?”

“Ah, yes, that’s what’s known as fast evolution. It’s a theory I’d been planning to write about. I guess there won’t be time.”

“Fast evolution?” Mona asked.

“The idea is that evolution can speed up when it needs to, and I believe the piranha in Beatrix evolved in order to live inside a hurricane as, we have seen, they seem to be doing.”

Mona took a moment to add it all up in her head.

“Are you saying that someone knew this was going to happen?”

“Oh, no,” Nevill said with a chuckle. “I’m saying that someone conjectured a certain probability that this could happen, someone who may very well win a Nobel prize for this, if they live long enough.”

Mona sighed. As far as she was concerned it was the same damn thing. She was typical for a nonscientist in that regard.

“I guess the cat’s out of the bag,” she said. “Or should I say the piranha’s out of the bag. Obviously, you know what’s going on here. But that’s good, because now I can talk about it as an actual scientifically predicted thing verified by you, if that’s okay.”

“I’d be delighted, of course.”

“Excellent. Well, Nevill, as always it’s been inter—”

“Don’t you want to know the rest of the story?” Nevill asked.

“Oh, you can send me a link or whatever to the paper, and I’ll make sure someone puts it up on our web site,” Mona said.

“That paper is merely the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” Nevill told her. “There is much more to it than a bunch of piranha being swept up into a hurricane. Much more.”

Something in Nevill’s voice told Mona not to dismiss what he was about to tell as the blabberings of a once brilliant mind turned mushy with age. In fact, Nevill was still sharper than most people half his age (and hornier, she remembered).

“I’m listening,” she said.

“This piranha-infested hurricane, or, shall we say, piranhacane, is merely the beginning.”

“Piranhacane. I like that. So, what is this the beginning of?” Mona asked. She assumed that whatever Nevill was talking about had something to do with global warming. Everything did, these days.

“Have you ever heard of the Gaia Theory?”

“No,” said Mona. “I guess I’m about to, though.”


Nevill, of course, knew all about the Gaia Theory. The Earth and all of its systems, organic and inorganic, living and nonliving, composed a macro-organism, a singular living entity called Gaia. That was the idea, anyway. It was a controversial one, to say the least. But events lately, events that had been predicted by Gaia theorists, seemed to bear it out. Like the piranhacane.

He occasionally sipped single malt scotch as he watched the progress of Beatrix on his television. It had churned in the open water of the Caribbean for a few days, gaining strength, and had then made its way for Miami. The devastation in Miami was beyond anything anyone had ever seen. New Orleans after Katrina was nothing compared to this. In all of history, only Hiroshima and Nagasaki could compare.

At first, only Mona’s coverage had shown clear, verifiable video of flying piranha in the storm. She was also the only one on television or the Internet to refer to Beatrix as a piranhacane. And the only one to invoke the Gaia theory to explain what was happening.

That changed after Miami, though, after the thousands upon thousands of picked-clean skeletons—men, women, children—while every other living thing remained untouched. Packs of dogs roamed the desolated landscape. Dogs that had been chained in yards had gotten free, their chains snapped presumably by piranha jaws. Impossible, yes, but it had happened. Cages had been torn apart letting out parrots, cockatoos, parakeets, and other birds that now swarmed around Miami-Dade in great flocks. The zoo’s fences and walls had been destroyed, and now exotic animals added their cries, roars, hoots, grunts, and other calls to the wild sounds that replaced Miami’s human-made garble of traffic mixed with samba, classic rock, rap, and reggae.

Gaia is cleaning house, Nevill thought. It was bound to happen to humanity sooner or later, as it had with other species before during the previous five mass extinctions.

Nevill looked at his phone and saw thirty-seven voicemails had been left for him. He’d been getting numerous texts and emails, as well. Thankfully, he did not maintain a presence on social media. He could imagine the social networks now blowing up with panic as the realization set in: the jig was up. Humans had made themselves such an annoyance that Gaia, nature herself, of which humanity was as much a part as any other species, had decided to start over once again.

He wished he had more time to develop his theories about Gaia and why humanity had evolved at all, had become technologically superior, had tried to vault itself off the planet and to the stars. His latest idea was that humanity somehow sensed its time was limited, that Gaia would decide enough was enough, eventually. Science had pointed to the previous extinctions as worthy of further consideration, but the bulk of humankind seemed to pay science no heed.

“Hmm.” Nevill saw that one of the messages was from a familiar phone number in Virginia. An old childhood friend. He decided to call back. It would be nice to reminisce. That’s all he had left, now.

As he waited for the connection, he reflected that while he was sorry not to have more time to develop his theories, he was also glad to be well into his twilight years. He’d lived a long and prosperous life. If it was time for him to go, so be it.


Abe Billings had his secretary put the call through immediately.

“Finally,” he said as he pressed the receiver to his face. “It’s good to hear from you Nevill. Thought maybe you’d forgotten about me.”

“You can imagine how busy I’ve been,” Nevill’s softened-with-age British accent floated to him from wherever the old scientist was hiding himself lately. It was a strange friendship, fostered during a childhood spent growing up in England, where Abe’s mother was posted as an Aide-de-Camp to the American Ambassador in London. Now, decades later, Abe was the only five-star in the U.S. military, and Nevill was a world-famous naturalist.

“I’m seeing your name all over the news,” Abe said. “Everyone seems to think you’ll win the Nobel.”

“Oh, I don’t expect to live that long.”

Abe was about to ask why, and then he realized what his old friend meant: he didn’t expect anyone to live that long.

“We’re going to hit Beatrix with everything we have,” Abe said. “Everything short of nuclear, that is. No one in Washington has the—” he was going to say balls but decided to go with—“political will.”

“I’m sure you’ll give ’er hell,” Nevill said. “It won’t matter, of course. But I suppose you have to try.”

“Well, thanks for the pep talk there, buddy,” Abe said, swallowing bile. He had a naturally hostile reaction to defeatism. It was goddamn un-American is what it was. But, then, Nevill wasn’t an American, Abe reminded himself.

“Beatrix is just the beginning, my friend,” Nevill said. “My recommendation: get your family to higher ground. Somewhere you can live off the land, with access to fresh water. That might buy you some time. Maybe your children will get to live full into their old age. But your grandchildren ...”

Abe sighed. Nevill was really bringing him down. Maybe the scientist was right, but Abe had never been one to go down without a fight.

“You know me better than that, Nev,” Abe said.

“Indeed,” Nevill said. “Then I suppose this is goodbye, Abe. I wish you luck.”

“Not goodbye,” Abe said. “I’ll go with see ya later if you don’t mind.”

Nevill laughed, and then Abe heard the phone click off.

So that was it, it seemed, as far as Nevill was concerned. But not Abe. Beatrix was about to experience the might of the United States military, everything short of nukes. Abe checked his watch. It was almost go time. He decided to make one more call before kick-off.

A few minutes later, after being patched through to the cockpit of an A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthog” flying over the mid-Atlantic, he was talking to his eldest son, Captain Jessup Billings of the United States Air Force.

“We’re en route now,” Jessie said from the cockpit. “E-T-A thirty minutes.”

“You make sure to let me know when you’re heading back, you hear?”

“Roger that, General,” Jessie said.

Abe was about to sign off with his usual, “All right, then. And don’t forget to call your mother, Captain.”

Instead, for some reason, he said, “All right, then. I love you, son.”

There was no reply right away. Not even static.

But then: “Love you, too, pop. Tell mom I’ll call her when I get back.”

“Roger that,” Abe said. The phone clicked off. Silence.


It was the largest formation of aircraft assembled since the ill-fated Operation Market Garden during World War II. Hundreds of unmanned drones and ship-fired long-range missiles had already been hitting Beatrix for forty-eight hours straight. Now, the big, expensive tactical fighters and their hotshot pilots rocketed past at high altitude. Raptors, Lightnings, Strike Eagles, and Super Hornets left dozens of contrails in the sky as they raced towards Beatrix in waves. The slower Warthogs would hit Beatrix next, followed by Dragon Spear and Commando gunships with heavy Gatling cannons, and these followed by Apache Longbow and SuperCobra helicopter gunships bristling with Bushmaster mini-guns. The last lines of defense would be shore-based tanks, howitzers, flak guns, and Little Bird choppers that would try to hit Beatrix before she made landfall.

The plan was simple enough. No one thought they could shoot down a hurricane, of course. But the idea was to shoot down as many of the piranhas that Beatrix carried as possible, before she hit the D.C. area. As no one seemed to want to use a nuke on her, even after Miami, this was the only way.

Jessie and the other Warthog pilots would be doing what the rest of the strike force could not, though. They would plow their notoriously tough aircraft straight through Beatrix in order to report back what they saw. Aside from armaments, each Warthog had video cameras and other recording devices to help the science types back on land determine how many piranha Beatrix carried with her.

“Maintain radio silence,” came the chief’s voice through Jessie’s headset.

Radio silence? What, did they think Beatrix would be able to understand them if they talked to one another? And if the damned piranhacane could understand them, so what? It wasn’t like their plan was some big secret.

The Warthog was buffeted by strong winds and rain as it reached the edge of the hurricane, and moments later Jessie heard and felt the thudding of piranhas as they slammed into the jet. Within seconds the canopy of his cockpit was smeared with blood and guts, obscuring visibility, which was already low due to the storm. The impacts continued with greater frequency. Figuring he was well enough into the storm, Jessie opened fire, the 30mm rotary cannon blasting away while a full load of Sidewinder air-to-air rockets flashed deeper into the storm.

There was no way to tell how many of the damn piranhas he was killing. For all he knew, more were dying by slamming into his plane than by his attempts to shoot them.

Jessie quickly realized the futility of the situation. They weren’t going to kill enough piranhas to save those citizens of Washington D.C. who remained in the city. He’d do his duty, and hope the Warthog hung together long enough to get him back to base, and then ... then, he didn’t know what he was going to do next.

The Warthog suddenly jerked sideways and tilted, indicating an engine had blown. Alarms hooted and red lights blinked. The remaining engine screamed with the strain of staying aloft in the storm. Something metal rattled around somewhere behind him.

He exhausted all of his ammunition. Now it was simply a matter of making it back to land, and out of the storm. Something in his peripheral vision caught his attention: a flash of light, and he turned to see another Warthog belching black smoke as it lost altitude, descending in an almost graceful approach towards the ocean.

It took a lot to bring down a Warthog. Now, Jessie was scared. He’d known that it could happen, of course, but seeing it wasn’t the same as knowing it.

His own Warthog was buffeted by the now rapid-fire impacts of piranhas. With one engine left, he changed heading and made for a landing strip in Virginia, beyond the southernmost edge of the storm. Please, God, let me get through this in one piece, he prayed.

The remaining engine screamed with the effort it took to push through the fury of Beatrix.


The artifact was remarkably well preserved. The local construction kingpin was visibly agitated by its presence, but there was nothing he could do. The Council of Elders had made their decree moons ago, that building could not continue on ground where an ancient artifact was discovered until after the scientists had their way with it.

White-Tip swished her tail with barely suppressed pleasure at the prospect of seeing the artifact, discovered hundreds of spans beneath the new so-called “business district” of the growing city. She chittered at Half-Tail, who’d lost the latter third of his tail in an excavating accident twenty-four seasons prior, back when he was once known as Bright-Eyes. She couldn’t believe he’d come to the site personally; she did not keep it a secret that she thought he was too old for field work. She also feared that he, being the best-known of the researchers in their field, would get the bulk of the credit for their work.

“It is amazing how complete the remains are,” said Dark-Tongue, the field researcher who’d been consulting with the builder, as per another Council of Elders decree. “The body is intact and well-preserved in some sort of tub-like containment, which seems to have been connected to machinery of some sort.”

White-Tip’s heart beat quickly in her chest as she anticipated what she would see. She picked absentmindedly at the tuft of fur on the tip of her tail. Suddenly self-conscious—it was rude to do that in public, especially around someone whose tail wasn’t long enough to reach so easily—she let go and held her tail behind her, although close to her back. There were many, many ways to get one’s tail shortened on a construction site, or an excavation site, and this was both.

They descended via hastily built wooden stairs that creaked and wobbled under their weight, water dripping down all around them from the recent spurt of rain that had momentarily cleansed the skies while muddying the ground. She hoped Dark-Tongue had covered the artifact and remains sufficiently. His initial report indicated that the find could be the key to establishing her Advanced Ancient Civilization Theory as the leading theory of prehistory research.

When she saw it, it took her breath away. The remains were recognizably an ancient ancestor of the almost hairless, tailless, ape-like animals in the jungle lands of the far south. Standing upright, it would have been thrice as tall as White-Tip, who was fairly tall herself. The tub it resided in was surmised to have been a control center for some sort of machine, but over the tens of tens of tens of summers since it operated the world had shifted and frozen and shifted some more, grinding it away over time.

The body, though, was still in one piece, whole from head to foot, so well preserved she could almost imagine it opening its eyes to look at her.

What would she ask, if she could speak to it?

What happened to you?

White-Tip was satisfied that the find was well-protected against the elements. It was still in danger of being eroded by the acidic smog belching from the machineries of industry all around it. Would that it had been found in a remote area, but she had to deal with what the earth presented to her.

What did your machine do?

“My team will take it from here,” she told Dark-Tongue. “It will take us two weeks at least to remove it.” Dark-Tongue nodded. The builder would be unhappy with the delay, but there wasn’t anything to do about it.

What was your life like?

She turned and went back up the rickety stairs and emerged into a brief ray of sunlight that warmed her before a black cloud of smoke wafted by, obscuring it. She looked towards where the smoke originated, a manufacturing facility that made who-knew-what. Its tall smokestack poured black smoke into the air constantly, day and night, like so many others all over the city. Industry and business were the driving forces behind the city’s expansion and building boom, and White-Tip worried that as Elders died and new ones were appointed to the Council, the laws would change and she would lose opportunities to study unearthed artifacts like the hairless ape in the tub.

What was the world like when you were alive?

She would just have to deal with it when the time came. Until then, she hoped this latest find would answer at least some of her questions about the distant past.

What happened to your people?

White-Tip coughed when she took a deep breath and inhaled the acrid, smoky air. And she wondered ...

Are we next? END

Stephen L. Antczak is the author of four small press books, the short story collections “Daydreams Undertaken” and “Edgewise,” the novels “God Drug” and “The Oracle Paradox,” and over fifty horror, fantasy, and science fiction short stories.


hugo noms





jamie noble-comp


bendayAbout the Story

When I first heard of the movie “Sharknado”—its title is fairly self-explanatory— “Piranhacane” popped into my head, but without a story attached.

I grew up in Florida, which is probably why I automatically thought of a hurricane. I’ve been fascinated by piranha since childhood after seeing one on display at my local YMCA.

While researching famed biologist E.O. Wilson for an article, I followed a link to a piece about the Gaia theory, which has nothing to do with Wilson. It was interesting, and evoked the through-line for the story.

Coming up with a character to follow from beginning to end proved difficult, so I used multiple POV characters. I’ve always liked the idea of one POV character’s scene ending with the interaction of the next scene’s main POV character. I thought this would be the best way to tell this story. —Stephen L. Antczak