Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.
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Eric M. Jones
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Fiction

Conversations With a Garbage Truck
by Margret A. Treiber

Freshly Brewed
by Preston Dennett

Triangle
by Barton Paul Levenson

Gift of Nibelung
by Olga Godim

Spectral
by Fonda Lee

Send in the Humans
by Harold R. Thompson

Rhythm of the Rain
by Samuel Van Pelt

Worms of Titan
by Brian Biswas

Shorter Stories

Wobble
by C.R. Hodges

Subsumation
by David Steffen

Fast Time Machines at Ridgemont High
by Fred Coppersmith

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Madness of the Winter Soldier
by Erin Lale

Resistance Fighters
by John McCormick


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Fast Time Machines at

Ridgemont High

By Fred Coppersmith

MY DAD SAYS HIGH SCHOOL was maybe the best years of his life. But come on, seriously? He was caught in a time loop for most of his junior year, and he had at least an extra decade or two to get it right.

Getting stuck another ten or twenty years at Ridgemont sounds like torture to me. Reliving the same days over and over again, going to the same boring classes.

I pretty much do that already, right?

I’m just glad they’ve got safeguards against that kind of thing nowadays. The only people who ever get trapped in time loops anymore are dumb freshmen, and even they can usually work their way out before their third or fourth repeat of first period.

Time travel’s kind of shit anyway, if you ask me.

Like for instance: the way people make way too big a deal over their first time machine.

Give me something that works, that gets the job done, and I honestly don’t care what it looks like. What does it matter how shiny the flux receptors are? Or if it’s tricked out for crazy stunts like chronodrift? Who even does that shit anymore?

I just want something that’ll get me safely from point B to point A. Nothing special, nothing fancy. Just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill time machine.

Try telling that to my dad, though.

“I appreciate you’re trying to buy my affection since the divorce,” I tell him, “but I would’ve been fine with Mom’s old temporal skiff.”

“Ha ha,” he says. Yeah, he doesn’t just laugh, he actually says that. Ha ha. “Consumer Reports called this the very top of the line.”

“Yeah, I’m sure they did.” Of course, today’s top of the line is yesterday’s old news.

The machine in front of us is a shimmering mess of hard golden edges and silvery curves. It takes up at least half the driveway and purrs, hesitantly, like a frightened kitten. It’s pretty as all hell, but where even is the door?

I stare at it, half blinded, and wonder: I’m supposed to drive that thing to the senior prom?

“You do know the dance is in ancient Rome, right?” I ask him. I dig out the flyer and the tickets from my backpack. Pompeii, just a few short years before its destruction under a mountain of lava and ash. The whole thing is kind of dumb, and more than a little sappy, but it’s not like they let me pick this year’s theme.

“Where am I supposed to park that without causing huge rifts in the timeline?” I ask.

I think of Roman peasants, or whatever they were called, staring at the time machine in fear and wonder. Stepping out of it in my tux like some kind of future god. It’s not a completely unappealing notion, now that I consider it, but I know it’ll never fly with the prom committee, or with that stick-in-the-mud Mr. Wilkins, our vice principal.

I promised Sheryl I wouldn’t get into any trouble before graduation. Rewriting history probably qualifies as trouble, right?

“I’m pretty sure it has cloaking tech,” my dad says, like he’s not pretty sure at all. He fiddles with a couple of buttons on the keyfob in his hand, but that just seems to make the sheen along its edges intensify and send an angry shiver of heat up and down its gleaming carapace.

I can’t help thinking you’d need to read a manual the size of a mastodon just to figure the damn thing out. You’d have to travel back to the age whenever mastodons were around just to give yourself enough time to read it.

“It has built-in anti-paradox stabilizers,” my dad says. “Both front and back. The guy at the lot said—”

Not for the first time I find myself wishing that Sheryl and I could just rent a limo like we’d originally planned. But it turns out, ten years from now, some of the limo drivers start using the time before the dance lets out to try and kill Hitler, or make a killing in the 1920s stock market, or screw up history in some other unimaginative ways. So the school had to preemptively ban us from hiring any of them.

Which sucks for us, especially if this beast my dad has bought is our only alternative.

I know he means well, and the damn thing must’ve cost him a fortune, but give me a break, right? The machine in the driveway basically screams “disruptive causality,” and it’d get me pulled over by the timecops easily. That’s even if I did ever manage to put it in gear and drive back a few centuries.

I stare at it again, my dad still poking at the keyfob, and I know there’s no way in hell Sheryl and I are taking this thing to the dance.

“Look, I’m just gonna ask Mom, all right?” I say. “It’s no big deal.”

The disappointment on his face makes me feel immediately guilty. So I figure, okay, what the hell, the least I can do is throw the old man a bone.

“I dunno,” I tell him, “maybe we can take this for a spin into the future sometime next weekend?” I shrug. There’s got to be some post-apocalyptic wasteland where it won’t seem totally out of place, right? “That’d probably be okay.”

“Great!” he says, and I can see he’s already planning the route, calculating all the tempus we’ll have to fugit. I was only half-kidding earlier when I brought up the divorce.

“Maybe we can even stop for ice cream someplace on the way back,” he says.

I grin. Sure, we’ll fight off deadly robots, roving cannibal gangs, or whichever future the time machine decides to spit us out into, and then we’ll go get some ice cream. Why the hell not? It might even be fun.

“Sure, Dad,” I say. “Let’s do that.”

Shit, it beats getting stuck in a time loop. END

Fred Coppersmith is a writer and editor whose fiction has appeared in “Andromeda Spaceways,” “Mythic Delirium,” “Lakeside Circus,” and elsewhere. He is also editor of the quarterly ezine “Kaleidotrope.”

 

peralta 4-2016

 

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