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




How Uncle Larry Became

a Shape-Shifting Blob

By Marc Rokoff

EVERY YEAR I MAKE THE TREK to see Uncle Larry way out on Gorzonia, in the Freck Solar System. They have the poor guy locked up over there as a matter of galactic security. I understand why, I mean, he isn’t really Uncle Larry anymore. He isn’t really anything anymore. Well, he is something—a big blob of goo to be precise—but I like to think he’s still in there, somewhere, so I always bring a dozen bags of pork rinds. They were always his favorite snack.

It doesn’t take long to get out to Gorzonia now that I’ve had genetic melding and my body can handle the superLeap system. It saves so much time. If only they could make the line move faster! I swear, I’ve been waiting like a whole hour, but there are still many people ahead of me so I have to be patient.

Anyhow, it’s ten years to the day since Uncle Larry got infected by the viral spleff that basically ended his life. I’ve decided to make this little recording about what happened to honor his memory.


When I dropped out of high school to be a professional gamer about eleven years ago, the only one who saw the potential, you know, like, fame, money and a lifetime of fun, was my Uncle Larry. He was a gamer when he was young. Gamers get other gamers, and that includes old gamers, too.

Well, I didn’t do so well with gaming. And worse than not qualifying for any tournaments, being a gamer 24/7 got me broke in a hurry. Eventually, my parents grew fed up with me sulking around the house, so they sent me out to Medford, Wisconsin, to live with Uncle Larry.

Medford is a long way from Brooklyn, New York, where our family is from. The town is famous for making the galaxy’s best refrigerators. Don’t ask me why. I mean, considering how heavy our gravity is, it seems crazy to build anything on Earth, but that’s how it is. Uncle Larry sold these “Made in Medford” refrigerators off-planet.

So, one evening, after I’d been staying with him about two months, while we were playing “Ghost Rabies 4,” Uncle Larry asked me if I would like to be his sales assistant.

“No,” I said.

“You have to earn a living, Danny. Sooner or later everyone has to,” he said.

I told him that I still planned on winning a gaming tournament and then I wouldn’t have to worry about money anymore.

He didn’t argue with me the way my parents did. That is, he didn’t come out and try to squash my dreams. No, he was too good a salesman to pressure me so directly! What he did was, he constantly tossed around reasons why it would be great if I came to work with him until, one day, I gave in and became his assistant refrigerator salesman. Mostly I just wanted to shut the guy up, but a little part of me was curious to see what it was all about.


Two months later, Uncle Larry had me well-trained in the art of refrigerator sales, because it truly is an art form by the way, and his boss said I was ready to assist him on an off-planet sales trek.

Our office had heard about the planet of Gorzonia by way of a “New Planet Sales Alert Notice.” These kinds of notices were generated automatically whenever the info portal told our company’s tracking system that official trading had been established between Earth and a new planet. It’s still done the same way today. So, Gorzonia was this type of lead. Really it was just a cold-call opportunity but at least it was a fresh opportunity. Uncle Larry preferred the fresh stuff, and he had seniority, so we jumped on it.

I didn’t care much either way about the actual refrigerators but I was pretty excited about the idea of free travel. Up until then, I had only been off-planet once, for a family vacation to the beach world of Utin. Well, we used to go to the moon a lot when I was a kid, but that hardly counts as going anywhere.

Getting out to Gorzonia took a month back then, so you gotta understand, we had a lot of time to talk. Uncle Larry started sounding like a song stuck on repeat as he prepped me for meeting the Gorzonians. The guy was freaking out because there were already so many things that could make closing a sale difficult when dealing with a familiar civilization, and this Gorzonia place, well, it was a totally new trading partner. I still remember when he told me how “unforeseen variables” could kill a sale as easily as they can make an opportunity.


Uncle Larry shouldn’t have been so worried about the people. When we arrived, we had a super-sweet guide assigned to us. Her name was something I couldn’t pronounce. She had us call her “Dina.” Dina was her new, Earthling-friendly nickname.

Dina didn’t understand the concept of refrigerators because the Gorzonians have a second stomach that kind of stores food on its own. They don’t really need to eat that often. Uncle Larry had already learned about their eating habits from his preliminary research. He remained confident, however, that there was still a market to be found.

“If they eat, they need refrigerators,” he said. “Period.”

He was wrong.

I should mention that he’d done well enough on other planets that didn’t have much of a market for refrigerators, so I trusted him even after it became extremely obvious that no Gorzonian would ever put their leftovers in cold storage. They mostly ate small animals that looked like hairless squirrels. The problem was, they raised them, they killed them, they ate them. They didn’t have leftovers.

“It’s all about finding a niche!” Uncle Larry kept saying.

I was doubtful we would find success no matter how hard we tried.

“Being in sales is like playing the most dizzy video game you can play,” Uncle Larry told me. That was back when calling something dizzy was still cool. Anyway, he told me, “You just have to keep at it until you get to the next level.”

We kept at it for weeks and nothing happened. I had already given up on selling a single fridge by the time he asked Dina if she would bring one into her own home.

She stared at him like he was crazy, but she agreed.


Gorzonians are different from Earthlings in many ways. They have skin the color of bananas, their faces are bumpier than ours, they are about two feet shorter than us, and they occasionally binge-eat those squirrelly animals. Even though that description makes them seem super different, considering how far away they are, our societies are actually surprisingly similar. Gorzonians get married, have kids, and move out to the suburbs just like we do on Earth. Because our lives wererefridgerator similar in ways that seemed to matter the most, Uncle Larry held onto the idea that we would start selling refrigerators if people would just get a little more accustomed to cold food storage.

“It’s not enough to tell them the benefits,” he said, “we have to show them!”

When we delivered a refrigerator to Dina’s home, one of ten samples we had brought to get Gorzonians interested, the first thing her son did was crawl inside and use it as a toilet. Their little bathrooms are stand-alone closets that, I have to admit, look a lot like our refrigerators.

“Clean that up, won’t you, Danny?” Uncle Larry said as he fiddled with an adapter that would allow the fridge to run off the house’s electricity.

“Sure,” I said, trying to be professional. He had taught me that one of the secrets to making a sale was to act like everything that happens is just the greatest thing ever. It wasn’t so easy to do this while cleaning up Gorzonian pee. It’s like rotten clam chowder. I gagged the whole time.

Within an hour, the refrigerator was working well and we tried to show them how they could use it. We killed one of those squirrel things and put half of it inside.

“You can keep it there for a week!” Uncle Larry said proudly.

Dina’s husband threw up in the sink.

“Why would I ever want to do that?” Dina asked politely.

“Well ...” Uncle Larry trailed off. He managed to keep a smile on his face even as they stared at him with expressions of horror and confusion Eventually, he finished with, “it will keep well.”

“Get that machine out of here!” Dina’s husband yelled as he wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

Uncle Larry never looked so miserable. We loaded the fridge onto the hover cart. As we were floating it out of her home, Dina asked us to lay it on the floor sideways.

We laid it flat and stared at her hopefully.

Dina explained to us that some Gorzonian children suffered from a disorder in which they generated extreme heat as they slept. This was because of the way Gorzonians had evolved. Their ancestors had, long ago, lived much farther north where they slept burrowed in the snow for large portions of their childhoods.

“I think this fridgorador could help them sleep better,” Dina said, “especially in the warm season.”

“Is that so?” Uncle Larry said.

“Absolutely,” she replied. “Night heat is a real problem for some children.”

“How many people do you think might have an interest in something like this?” Uncle Larry asked.

“Oh, many children suffer from this condition.”

Uncle Larry leaned towards Dina. “How many is many?”

“I would guess that a hundred thousand children could benefit from something like this.”

Uncle Larry jiggled the universal translator in his ear. “Did you say a hundred thousand?”

“Absolutely! The more I think about it, this item could become tremendously popular here.”

And with those words, we had found our niche.


Commissions for off-planet sales at the refrigerator company were nearly thirty percent. Uncle Larry was going to keep twenty percent and I would get ten. With the way things were looking, I was expecting to score enough money to put me back into gaming for years. Uncle Larry was equally optimistic, but he was also cautious.

“You never count your money until the funds clear,” he told me.

“But you heard her, Uncle Lar, there’s big money in this.”

“We have our foot in the door. That’s it. Never get cocky, Daniel.”

He only called me Daniel when he was about to start lecturing me, so I knew not to argue the point. Besides, I had to close my mouth as he freshened up the yellow toner on my face.

We had spray-toned our skin a banana-yellow color so we would be more appealing to the Gorzonians, and he had brought extra toner for touch-ups. Before leaving Earth, Uncle Larry had heard about a lighting distributor who had done poorly on Gorzonia and claimed his guide told him that people probably wouldn’t want to do business with someone who looked like a corpse. That’s why we turned ourselves bright yellow.

It was important to look our best as we met with parents to convince them that our refrigerators could help their kids get a better, more comfortable sleep. Because Gorzonians don’t breathe much while they sleep, Earth refrigerators needed only modest modifications. We just had to throw in a pillow or two and a small ventilator tube. We figured word would spread quickly that a solution had been found to improve the lives of all those thousands of children who suffered from that overheating sleep disorder.

Each of the ten sets of parents to which we ended up delivering the fridges were grateful to be among the first to try a “child’s sleep machine,” as they called them.

The following morning, the results were in and all ten kids were in love with their sleep machines. A week later, we had 325 orders and that was just through word of mouth. Uncle Larry stopped talking about waiting for checks to clear and flat out told me we were going to be rich once he put together a proper marketing campaign.


We did not become rich.

A few weeks after the kids started sleeping in the refrigerators, one of them came down with something like the flu. It wasn’t a huge catastrophe, but it made the United Governments of Gorzonia, or UGOG, nervous. They kept a close watch on what Earthlings were bringing onto their planet; we were new there.

UGOG had its act together and it didn’t fool around. They quickly figured out that the children got sick because their particular immune systems actually benefited from the nightly overheating from the disorder; the heat killed a certain Gorzonian virus that a small subset of the sleep-troubled kids were prone to catching. Fortunately, UGOG did not immediately stop us from selling refrigerators for kids to sleep in because nine out of ten had benefitted from the “sleep machines” without any side effects.

If only things had gone a little bit differently, I’m sure we would have been very successful on Gorzonia. Instead, one of the little kids who had gotten sick sneezed on Uncle Larry’s hand when we came to take the refrigerator out of his house. Never mind that it was an accident, it turned into a really big deal.

The flu the child suffered from wasn’t terribly severe, but it was unusual. In fact, it wasn’t any kind of flu they were used to dealing with because the kids who were most receptive to the virus normally burned it up while they slept. It turned out to be so rare that neither the United Nations Health Force nor UGOG’s Health and Safety Department ran across it as a red flag when they did their test simulations for potentially dangerous cross-planet contamination situations.


I didn’t know anything was wrong with my uncle until later in the day, after we had put the rejected refrigerator into storage. Uncle Larry came running out of the hotel bathroom after taking a shower. He was totally freaking out.

“I can’t get that little kid’s booger off my hand!” he yelled.

“What do you mean?” I asked.


Uncle Larry raised his hand and there was the booger, kind of melted onto his skin. If he pulled on it, it looked like he was pulling at his own skin. It was just totally stuck on there.

“Why didn’t you wipe it off when he sneezed on you?” I asked.

“I was using both hands to guide the fridge. I didn’t want to scratch up their walls. The customer was talking to me and I forgot about it.”

“We have to go to a hospital,” I said.

“No! Danny, I already told you about going to other planets. You never screw ’em, you never see their doctors, and you always take full payment up front.” He sat down on the bed and wiped his forehead, which had broken out in a sweat. “No,” he continued, “I’ll just tough it out, then go see someone back on Earth.”

“I don’t know, that looks kinda weird,” I told him.

“I said I’ll be alright,” he yelled. Then he asked me to get him a bag of pork rinds from his suitcase, which I did.

“If you need anything,” I said, “just let me know.”

Uncle Larry seemed really nervous. I guess, in a way, he already knew he was cooked.

“I’ll just eat this and get some rest,” he said.


When I woke up the next morning, Uncle Larry was sitting hunched over at the edge of his bed. He had one hand raised to eye level but the crazy thing was, his fingers stretched down, like, twenty-five centimeters, just dangling.

I bounced up. “What’s happening?” I yelled.

“I don’t know,” he said, “but look!” He turned to face me and closed his eyes, then somehow managed to fuse his lids so it seemed like he had no eyes at all. Then his eyelids came back and he opened them.

“How did you do that?”

“It just happens. I barely have to think about it. I could have a half-meter wiener if I wanted to!”

“Okay, Larry, this is really weird!” I said.

“I know, we can’t let anyone find out. They’ll never let me back on Earth like this.”

“That might be for the best!” I yelled, kind of keeping my distance.

“Don’t start with me, kid,” he said in his seriously angry voice. “This could’ve just as easily happened to you!”

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

“Just get me some food packs. I’m starving!”

I pulled out three food packs, a whole day’s supply. He had some trouble opening the packages so I did it for him and left them on the bed. I begged him to let me call a doctor, but he insisted I let him “beat this dipshit alien virus” all by himself.


I spent much of the day outside of the hotel. We agreed it was for the best. Uncle Larry didn’t know what was happening to him and neither of us wanted it to happen to me.

Fotunately, they had video games on Gorzonia. I couldn’t play because their controllers were fitted to their hands and heads and I was too big to make it work, so I spent a lot of the day watching other people play. The rest of the day I spoke to potential customers who were responding to calls Uncle Larry had put out before he’d gotten sick.

It was already a bad sign that Uncle Larry was forwarding his calls to my phone, but things took a turn for the worse when he called me himself.

“Get a returned fridge out of storage,” he said. “We’re going back home.”

Besides the fact that he was mumbling and something was seriously wrong with his voice, I knew the man was not in his right mind. Earth would never take him back as sick as he was, and even if by some miracle they did agree to receive him, the sample refrigerators were not something we needed to worry about for the time being. All the same, I didn’t want to argue with him.

“Are you feeling any better?” I asked.

“Just get the fridge.”


When I got back to the hotel room, I opened the door and guided the refrigerator inside. As soon as I saw Uncle Larry in the bathroom, I jumped back against the wall. That’s how badly it scared me to see him the way he was.

“It’s okay, Danny,” he said with a lot of effort, “I’m still me, still your Uncle Larry.”

The problem was, he didn’t look like Uncle Larry. His head and face did, a little bit, but that head and face were just sort of coming up out of a gooey blob in the tub. He was mostly liquid! The skin toner had mixed into his goop and colored the whole mess yellow. I tried to be calm. It didn’t work, and I began hyperventilating.

“Calm down,” Uncle Larry said.

I didn’t calm down, but looking back I can see that he was doing the best he could. He managed to pull himself into his normal shape, then he turned himself into a giant, human-sized banana with legs. He pushed out his face at the top of the banana and said, “look, I’m a talking banana.” Then he shifted back into a puddle with a head. “This would be kind of cool if I didn’t feel so shitty.”

I stared at him, not saying a word, still breathing too heavily.

“This is what we’re going to do,” he told me with his garbled voice. “I can’t fly our ship. I booked a ticket for you back to Earth tonight. I paid for cargo hauling. I’m going to get in the fridge and you’ll get some packing tape, a good heavy-duty kind, and wrap me up. We’ll get back home and I’ll go see an Earth doctor. There must be a specialist for this sort of thing.”

I nodded and, not knowing what else to do, followed his instructions. I brought the refrigerator to the bathroom door and watched him form legs, walk over to it, and spill inside.

“Can’t you just stay in your normal shape until we get back?” I asked.

Uncle Larry’s head re-formed out of the goop that filled the inside of the refrigerator. “It’s too hard to do,” he said. “I’ll never make it that long.”

“Okay,” I said, totally smacked by the whole situation.

“Alright,” he said. “I sent the ticket info to you. Thanks, Danny.”

I nodded. Like he’d said, that goop was still my Uncle Larry and I wasn’t about to leave him on Gorzonia.

“You ready?” I asked as I started to close the door.

“Yeah. No, wait. Get me some of those pork rinds, in case I get hungry.”

I nodded again. I tore open a pack of the pork rinds and waited for him to do something.

“What are you waiting for?” he asked.

“Don’t you wanna put out a hand?”

“No, no,” he said. “Just sprinkle them in. It’ll be fine.”

And so I did.


If only they had sold packing tape in the hotel lobby, I think I could have gotten Uncle Larry back to Earth. Unfortunately, they did not.

Although the refrigerator moved on a floater, it required a steady hand to guide it—usually two sets of hands. I could have managed it myself, but as I made my way out of the lobby, the floater drifted too quickly down the stairs and sped ahead of me, ultimately banging into a small statue near the doors. The force was just enough to topple the refrigerator onto its side.

The door fell open and Uncle Larry spilled out.

People started screaming.

Uncle Larry formed a head, looked around, and said, “Awww, shit!”


What happened to Uncle Larry had never happened to anyone, anywhere before. There have been many weird bacterial and viral infections recorded since Earthlings first started getting around in space, but when that viral spleff melded with Uncle Larry, a new life form was created. As it turns out, when a virus infects a person and turns them into something completely new, that new something becomes a pretty big deal.

Suddenly, I found myself in the middle of all kinds of tense situations. First, I was charged with “intent to smuggle a biohazard back to Earth.” Then, Gorzonia’s UGOG claimed the United Nations had sent Uncle Larry to its planet to liquefy its inhabitants, even though that was sort of the opposite of what happened. Then Earthlings started saying that Gorzonia was some kind of threat. Suddenly, we were on the brink of war.

Eventually, thanks to the massive effort of the galaxy’s non-partisan peace-keeping diplomats, everything got worked out and war was averted. They even got me freed once the refrigerators were tested, and I was tested, and the sick boy was tested, and all the details of my job were investigated. Yes, eventually the truth did come out that it was all just a freak accident, not some terrorist or governmental plot to liquefy the inhabitants of either planet.


Over time, Uncle Larry destabilized into an unconscious, perpetually liquid state. Gorzonia claims this happened naturally, but I personally believe they’ve got him drugged out or something. Regardless, it’s been years since I’ve seen his face. In the beginning, after my release, we could talk for a while before he turned back into goop. Now, though, I just sit near him and talk about whatever I can think of. I tell him how sales are. I stayed in the refrigerator business and, thanks to him, I’m a pretty good salesman, if I do say so myself.

They have Uncle Larry in a big vat with a clear lid that has filtered air holes. He never seems to get any better, but I visit anyway. I’m still technically fighting to bring him back to Earth. Unfortunately, interplanetary law moves very slowly.

What happened to Uncle Larry is still not fully understood. Because of this, he is locked down tightly and the only people who get to see him are doctors, scientists and, once a year, me. The biggest concern about moving Uncle Larry back to Earth is that his condition might be contagious and a spill could turn into a huge, mysterious outbreak that nobody wants to deal with. But if he was really so contagious, wouldn’t I have gotten sick too? Who knows what to believe? All I can do now is carry on with the appeals process and visit him when they let me.

I won’t get my hopes up about what to expect when I see him this time. As I mentioned, he’s only ever gotten worse and worse. Last year, when I opened up a bag of pork rinds for him, I did kinda think I saw an eye forming in his goop, but it was too hard to tell. I looked for any other sign of Uncle Larry in there but nothing else happened, so I did what I thought he’d want me to do:

I held the pork rinds over the air intake tubes and sprinkled them in. END

Marc Rokoff has won several awards for his documentary video work, including Best Documentary from the Arizona Underground Film Festival. He is currently employed as a product marketing manager in the San Francisco Bay area.


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