Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Go for the Dome
by Sean Monaghan

Quantum Rose
by Jude-Marie Green

Autumn’s Net
by Matt Thompson

Crawley, I Tell You!
by Tim McDaniel

In the Cave of the Silver Pool
by Peter J Larrivee

How Uncle Larry Became a Shape-Shifting Blob
by Marc Rokoff

by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Through a Poisoned Stream I Flow
by Brandon Ketchum

Shorter Stories

Robot Story
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

by Jeffrey Abrams

Dumb Luck
by Michael N. Farney


Xenophobia Destroys Science Fiction
by Carol Kean

Computed Cryptograms
by Sam Bellotto Jr.



Comic Strips





In the Cave of the Silver Pool

By Peter J Larrivee

TOMMY COULDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT the living liquid was. He didn’t understand the strange, moving silver in the secret cave on the beach.

Tommy was seven, short, and well-tanned from spending so much time outside. His dad had just moved them into a big, beautiful house next to the ocean. There was no real beach at Tommy’s new house, just huge rocks that stuck out into the wide, blue ocean from the shore. The giant slabs of stone were piled there, like leftovers of mountains dumped into the sea. The rocks started at the edge of Tommy’s backyard, beyond a pathetic chicken-wire fence designed to keep people off. His dad told him to stay in the yard, away from the dangerous rocks, but Tommy couldn’t. He couldn’t stay in that square of grass when all those rocks with their secrets, and that massive ocean with its treasures, stood there waiting for him. The water would slam against those rocks all day, but they would not budge. Something about the steady, unbreakable rocks, made Tommy want to go back, every day, and watch the waves crash helplessly against the stone.

It had been only the two of them, Tommy and his dad for almost as long as he could remember. He had a vague memory of his mom from a few years ago. He remembered her lying in a big box. His dad said she was in heaven.

It seemed like Tommy’s dad kept trying to find a new mom for him, with all the different women he brought home. The latest one was Angie, but Tommy thought she was too young to be his mom. She always wore clothes that were too tight, or too loose. Her skin was a kind of unnatural brown, like she’d started to dry up in the sun. There was a woman a while ago who was so much better. That one helped Tommy with his homework. She’d been smart, fun, and had shown him some of the wonderful things that lived down by the shore. She showed him the translucent jellyfish, the glittering sea glass, all the treasures washed up after a storm. But his father had chosen someone else for now, and he felt alone when he walked in the sand.

So Tommy spent his time exploring the rocks, the tiny caves, finding horseshoe crabs, shells, driftwood, all the things that washed up during low tide. He loved the rocks, the way the sun would heat them up in the afternoon, and the incoming tide would cool them once again. It was his little place, his escape to a second home.


He met the silver pool after school one day. Tommy had gone up the road to the playground, with its rusty swings and hot metal slides, to meet the other kids in the neighborhood. In his old school, he’d been picked on for being short, for being bad at sports, for not being cool enough. It seemed like the kids always found a reason to start picking on Tommy. He wondered if it could be different here, if he could find real friends in this new place. He pushed the bad memories out of his mind. It would be different here, he told himself.

Two boys were sitting on the swings, both tanned, wearing muscle shirts that flapped loose around their bony forms in the ocean winds. Tommy called out to them. They looked at him. Then, they looked at each other with grins, grins that Tommy should have recognized, the devilish grins that Tommy always saw just before the teasing began.

They introduced themselves, Rick and Steve. Tommy told them about how he’d moved in over the summer, told them about the rocks on the beach where he liked to hide, told them just about everything. They started teasing him almost immediately. They teased him because he was new, short, and afraid.

His father’s words echoed in his mind. “Stand up for yourself.” Every memory of every bitter day walking home with a fresh bruise, or intentionally chaffed skin, would bubble into his little brain every time he tried. Still, he raised his voice and told them to stop.

Teasing turned into shoving, shoving into punching. Tommy left the playground with a black eye, streaming tears, and sand in his little teeth. He got to his house, but stopped. He didn’t want his dad to see him cry, and he didn’t want to see Angie at all. He went down to the rocks, farther down the edge of the sea than he’d even been before. That’s where he found the cave, a little more than fifteen feet from the ocean. Two huge slabs of rock supported each other, making a small triangle of an opening.

Inside, it was a lot bigger than he thought. He found room to stand up. The sand was wet; seaweed seemed to be the only living thing in the whole cave. Then Tommy saw the puddle that looked like a melted mirror. He walked towards it, slowly, peering at the strange silver circle. It was as big around as a coffee table, but it seemed to be thin, like water. The surface rippled, then swelled. It moved, surging from the sand, swirling impossibly against gravity, reflecting the dim, dark stones.

Tommy jumped back. It looked like someone pushing from underneath a blanket, a bulging gelatinous slime that reached towards him. He backed away, his breathing ragged. A nightmare rested only inches from his face.

It stopped. Tiny ripples went through the strange thing, and he could see his own bruised, battered face in the quivering mirror. It didn’t move any closer. It’s like it was just staring at him.

He sat in that cave until he could hear water lapping at the stones by the entrance. He kept staring at the bizarre liquid that rose to his height, almost as thin as he was, but its surface would ripple and swell now and then. He wondered if it was breathing.

He tried to poke at it with a little piece of driftwood. It pulled the stick into itself, running little bits of silver all over the surface, then spat it back out, flinging it towards the mouth of the cave. Tommy smiled as he went to find more sticks.

He played with it, became less afraid. After a little while, the sunlight was dim, too dim to see very well. Tommy did notice that the tide was coming in. The water was starting to stretch deeper into the cave with each crashing wave. The water splashed with every step while he ran across the beach. He had to leave. He told the silver he’d come back tomorrow.


That night he told his dad about the silver pool. He had to explain the bruises first. He tried hard not to cry in front of his dad, but his voice shook a little as he told the story. He told his Dad how it was just like back home, how he couldn’t get away, how they were bigger than him and wouldn’t let him go. His dad put an arm around him, told him it was okay to cry, to let it out. Tommy held it in.

He told his dad how he went down to the beach to hide, to get away, and that there was a silver pool in that cave. His dad seemed scared at first, then angry. His face went red.

“Don’t go back to that cave, Tommy, you hear,” said his dad, yelling loud enough to scare the poor boy. “That’s called mercury, and it’s poisonous.”

“I thought Mercury was a planet,” Tommy said quietly. They’d learned the planets last week in science class.

“It’s also a poison. It looks like melted silver. If you touch it, it will make you incredibly sick.”

“It’s okay, Dad, I used a stick.”


His dad made him promise not to go back to the cave. He was angry, out of breath. He’d never seen his dad react like that. His dad calmed down after a minute, mumbling something about making a phone call. Then Angie came in and told his dad they’d be late to the party. Tommy averted his eyes to hide his bruises, and because Angie was wearing what looked like a see-through tee shirt and almost nothing else. He could see everything, and the woman had sad wrinkles. She giggled and spoke in whispers to his dad. He grunted some reply. When Angie left, he turned back to Tommy.

“Tommy,” he said softly, “I’m sorry I got angry. But this is why I tell you to stay in our yard. Who knows what’s going to wash up on those rocks, and I don’t want you falling and cracking your head open. Please, just don’t go down there any more.”

Tommy sniffled, but nodded.

The next day, Tommy broke his promise to his dad, to keep his promise to the silver. He had to, even though he knew his dad would be angry with him. He had to see the silver again. He had to know more about it, maybe see if he could talk to it somehow. No one else seemed to know about anything like it. Tommy had asked his teacher, during science, about the silver. She had the same reaction his dad did. She didn’t yell, though. She took him aside. She spoke softly, told him how dangerous it was. The other kids were grinning and giggling while Tommy and the teacher stood up in front of the room. Tommy knew he’d get teased for talking about it, he knew the others were straining to hear the conversation. He looked at the floor, wishing he’d never said anything. He knew Rick and Steve were in the back of the class, probably waiting for their chance.

After school, he made sure no one was following him when he ran down to the beach. He had to see if the silver had been washed away by the tide. After all, it looked like any another liquid. He wanted it to still be there, like the rocks that didn’t move. The water should have washed it out when the tide came in last night. He moved with soft steps into the dim, wet cave. The silver was there.

A dried-up fish lay nearby. It was covered with tiny bugs, and smelled nasty, so Tommy kicked it away back towards the mouth of the cave and the ocean. He sat down next to the silver pool.

“What are you?” he asked out loud. The pool seemed to ripple in response, like he’d dropped a stone into it. “My dad says you’re poison. Did you poison that fish?”

Tommy couldn’t find a good stick, so he gave the pool a rock, one dry and hot from the sun outside. The pool hugged it for a while, slithered over it, then rolled it away. Tommy picked the rock back up. It was cold now, almost freezing. Did the silver want heat? Why wasn’t it in the sun? Or would that dry it out? It would use its tiny appendage to wave and move, following Tommy. How did it see him without eyes? Tommy had so many questions, so many wonders about his strange little friend.

Tommy left well before the tide came in. He started climbing back towards the house. He didn’t want his dad suspecting anything. He opened the back door without making noise, then moved into the living room to watch TV. His dad was in the kitchen, talking on the phone. He pretended to watch TV, but listened when he heard his dad talk about mercury. He heard his dad argue with the man on the other end. Dad wanted it all taken care of by tomorrow, or he was suing the town and the DEM. It was poison. His son was almost poisoned. He kept yelling that into the phone, swearing now and then to make his point. Eventually, his dad calmed down. He thanked the man on the other end. The silver pool would be gone tomorrow. Men would come to take it away. Tommy snuck out the back door. It was sunset. He had to get the silver pool out of there before they took it away.

He grabbed a big, empty coffee can from the green recycling bin at the back door, hoping it would fit inside, then ran down the soft, grassy backyard. The world was dim and orange as he climbed down the rocks, clutching the coffee can close. It couldn’t be mercury. He knew it was alive. Mercury wasn’t alive. Whatever it was, they were going to get rid of it. He had to stop that.

The tide was coming in. Tommy didn’t have much time. Already the waves were getting bigger, creeping up the beach towards the cave. He’d forgotten to bring a flashlight, but there was enough dim light to make out the glistening silver.

“They’re gonna clean you up,” he said to the silver pool, as he ran into the cave, “You have to get out of here.”

The pool rippled in response. It bulged up again, moving with Tommy. He put the coffee can down, and motioned for it to slip inside, waving his hand, like trying to command a puppy.

“Come on, I’ll get you out of here,” said Tommy. It didn’t move. It froze in place, as if afraid. Tommy tried to coax it in, but heard something behind him. The crashing waves, getting larger and louder must have covered the noise of the footsteps as they snuck up behind him. He turned to see three of them, the kids from the playground.

“He’s talking to the poison,” said Rick. Steve was next to him, but Tommy didn’t know the other kid. He might have seen him in science class, but he wasn’t sure. Rick and Steve were bad enough on their own. Tommy froze, his heart pounding hard and terror gripping him. Had they followed him down here? Why? Were they going to hurt him again? Why couldn’t they leave him alone?

“What’re you gonna do? Take it home as a pet?” said Steve, who grabbed the back of Tommy’s shirt, pulling him off the ground. Before Tommy could say or do anything, Steve’s fist slammed into his stomach. He fell to the ground again, wheezing. He couldn’t breathe.

The silver pool was still. Tommy looked up at Rick, who kicked him in the face. Tommy tasted dirt before he landed in the wet sand. He was on his side, looking at Steve’s shoe. He shut his eyes just before Steve kicked sand at him. Tommy tried not to cry. His eyes were watering. Tears squeezed out.

“Look, we made the baby cry,” said Rick.

They started to chant at him, cry baby, sissy-boy, anything they could throw at him. Just like the last time where Tommy could do nothing but wait for them to finish hurting him, then sulk away in misery. He was outnumbered, the exit blocked. Tommy looked at the silver pool, his eyes blurry with tears. It was starting to move again.

“Help me,” he said in a wheeze. He shuddered with a sob. If only he had a stick or something, something he could use, or the silver could use. But he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t run with the three of them blocking the cave.

Rick pulled him off the ground.

“Hey, midget,” said Rick, “You shouldn’t play with dangerous things.”

Tommy shut his eyes. He felt the fist strike him in the jaw. He felt spit and blood from his lip spray into the air. He fell onto the coarse sand, a rock scraping his arm when he landed. He could only barely see, but he thought he saw the silver pool moving, throbbing, shuddering.

Tommy didn’t know what the living liquid was. He didn’t see his blood and saliva land in the silver pool. Neither did the three bullies.

Tommy felt wet. There was water trickling into the cave now. The waves were getting bigger. They had to get out soon. The bullies didn’t seem to notice or care.

Tommy felt himself lifted up again by the arm, then dropped suddenly. One of the boys let out a yell of fear. Tommy opened his eyes.

The silver pool was rising, growing. It rose to the height of a small boy and swirled into a new shape, something like a human. It still rippled, flowed, like a river pretending to be a person. The hands were too big, the face was all exaggerated like a caricature. The legs were too short. It took two splashy steps towards the bullies. Each time it walked, bits of it broke off, struck the sand, then flowed back to original leg.

Tommy tried to get up. He was dizzy. The bullies ran towards the mouth of the cave, feet splashing in the water, stopping at a safe distance. One of them had picked up a piece of driftwood. He held it like a baseball bat.

The bullies didn’t see the big wave building off shore. The silver pool kept walking towards them. It made no splashes in the rising water as it stepped. It didn’t even ripple the surface. The big wave crashed, knocking the boys off balance so the rip tide could pull them completely off their feet. They scrambled to get up again as the silver approached.

The waves were drifting deep into the cave now. The water was already soaking into Tommy’s sneakers. His socks became little sponges, squishing water out when he shifted his weight. He looked up at the bullies outside and the walking silver. He edged along the side, gripping the rocks, to watch.

The one with the driftwood, the one Tommy didn’t know, swung at the silver. The stick sank into the liquid, then stuck. The boy jumped back, screaming. The silver pulled the stick into itself, then hurled it at the boy with its whole body, flinging the driftwood as if it were weightless. The bully fell back into the sea with a small trail of red following his forehead.

Another big wave crashed, but Rick and Steve were already running. Even when they were knocked down by the rushing water, they kept going, fighting to get away, leaving their cohort behind with the creature. They splashed frantically, clawing their way to the safety of the rocks, slipping and scrambling up the giant boulders.

The silver let itself wash back into the cave, where it reformed as a rippling column. Tommy was bleeding. He felt a sharp point where one of his teeth used to be. He looked at the silver, a little scared, a little grateful. The sting from a cut on his leg reminded him of the rapid rising water. He had to get out of the cave.

“I have to go, or I’ll drown,” he said. He spit sand out of his mouth when he finished. Was that gravel or bits of his tooth? The silver face mimicked his mouth, but made no sound. Tommy started for the entrance of the cave, his body aching from the beating. The water was getting higher now; he practically had to swim.

The silver floated beside him, oblivious to the water. Tommy got to the mouth of the cave, but he was up to his chest in water. The silver stayed with him. Tommy felt a strong rip tide. He knew a big wave was coming. He gripped the smooth rock with all his might. He held his breath.

The silver column stretched in front of him, shielding him from the wave. He saw his bloody face, his broken tooth, the mud and sand all over him, reflected in the perfectly flat surface of the pool. He saw a bit of Rick’s footprint on his jaw and the sheen of tears over his eyes.

“I’ll drown!” Tommy cried. That face returned, Tommy’s face. Similar ripples moved down the sides of the silvery face. The silver spread out more, much more, covering the mouth of the cave. Slowly, the water seemed to get sucked out by the rip tide, but the waves were blocked. The silver thing drained the water away, leaving Tommy standing there, gripping a wet rock for dear life.

Tommy knelt down on the sand, watched his blood drip into the muddy bottom of the cave. He looked at his reflection in the silver. It seemed to ripple every now and then, maybe from the waves outside crashing against it.

Eventually, the rippling stopped. It was dark in the cave, but Tommy could still see his face in the rippling mirror-like surface. It glowed like the moon.

“What are you?” he asked.

An impression of his face slowly raised from the flat, mirror-like surface. It mimicked his mouth movements, but again, no sound. Maybe it couldn’t hear.

Tommy knew it wasn’t mercury. He knew it was alive. Was it still poison? He reached out to touch it. It had saved him. Was it some kind of alien? Was it intelligent? It saved him. Was it his friend? Did it know what a friend was?

Tommy touched the cold, jelly-like surface of the silver pool with his little, blood-stained hand. It popped, like a bubble. He shut his eyes as it washed over him in a great silver wave, the mighty ocean surging behind it.

It enveloped him. He felt it over every surface of his body. He felt like he was floating in a warm, safe place. He felt waves toss him back and forth. He felt like he was flying, floating. He felt it creep into his ears, his nose, his mouth. He felt it flow into his wounds, sucking away the pain. He felt it breathe, filling his lungs with air. He felt it seep into his senses, touch his mind.

He felt what it was like to be silver. He felt what it was like to wrap around a methane bubble, to float high into the atmosphere, to freeze, to become crystal, to harden himself against the deep black void of space. He knew the sensation of plummeting, hard, fast, and hot through scraping air. He lived the sensation of striking the ocean, sinking into a tremendous, warm embrace of healing water. He fed on fish, on krill, to suck up the mercury in their blood. So much of it! It kept him alive. Tommy opened his eyes, seeing nothing but knowing everything. He felt no pain, no fear, only peace. He felt he was safe, cared for, protected. He felt like nothing was missing anymore. He was in a dark, warm place, nestled between the hot rocks as the morning sun baked him dry, crystallizing him, refreshing him. He knew what it was to be a living liquid. He felt what it was to be born, to be delivered to safety by warm hands.


Tommy awoke on the beach at low tide. Not the rocky, dangerous beach of his home, but a wide, sandy beach. It was morning. He lifted his arm to block the bright, hot sun from his eyes. It rose over the ocean with blinding whiteness. He didn’t taste sand in his mouth. He didn’t feel throbbing from his wounds.

A coffee can was next to him on the beach. It was full of silver. He looked inside, seeing his reflection in the calm liquid. His tooth wasn’t broken. His lip wasn’t swollen or bloody. He wasn’t even covered in mud. There were marks, small ones, where the wounds had been, but just small scars.

Tommy picked up the can. He took the lid from the bottom, fastening it tight over the top. He didn’t know this beach immediately. Maybe it was a completely different country. No, he knew the silver wouldn’t do that to him.

He climbed away from the water to the nearest street, North Shore Road. He wasn’t far from home. He could walk there. He felt good. His wet skin dried in the morning sun as he strolled up the street. The silver slept in the coffee can. Tommy knew it was sleeping. He knew it would wake up later—it would be hungry—and he’d take it down to the water to feed. His dad would never know. Angie would definitely never know. He would keep this silver secret, learn about it, about the cold stars and the drifting clouds of hot gas that stretched through the void, the secrets of the night sky.

Perhaps one day, he’d even touch that sky himself. The silver would help him. It could take care of him now, and he could take care of it. END

Peter J Larrivee is an author from Rhode Island. He has written one novel and is currently releasing a novella online. He writes for “Motif,” a local entertainment and arts magazine, and “Yankee Brew News,” a craft-beer magazine.


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