Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Breeding Season
by Sean Mulroy

Personal Artifacts Lost
by Marilyn K. Martin

Lover’s Moon
by Ronald D. Ferguson

When it Comes Around
by Auston Habershaw

by Nolan Edrik

Shuffleboard on the Hubble Deck
by Iain Ishbel

This Perilous Brink
by JT Gill

Only a Signal Shown
by L.E. Buis

Shorter Stories

Thunder Lizard
by William Suboski

Blue Harvest
by Andrew James Woodyard

Heat of the Night
by Gareth D. Jones


From Oshkosh to Tomorrow
by Joyce Frohn

A Primer on Quantum Field Theory
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips




This Perilous Brink

By JT Gill

AH, BUT THE ASTEROIDS are beautiful tonight.

Sometimes I just sit and watch them, their bungled masses thrown together like awesome buckets of gravel, strewn across the stars like glittering dust.

Of course, it’s much easier to enjoy it all from the cockpit of my Hulker—a reinforced turtle of a ship, armored and layered and shielded heavily enough to maintain my peace of mind at least.

But it is fast. 

From behind the control panel, I zip and weave, cutting through the ever-twisting labyrinth like a rogue missile. One wrong turn, a micrometer’s incorrect judgement, a touch to the joystick and I could be pulverized. 

That is exhilarating. 

I doubt the Hulker would sustain much damage, of course, but even so, danger has a way of freeing you to recklessness. And perhaps I am reckless. But it makes you feel alive—watching an asteroid roll by, close enough to touch. The feeling of seeing two rocks collide, and the rattling of splintered shards across the hull. 

But it’s not all joyriding, and for all my recklessness, I have a crew to get back to.

And a wife. They’re waiting for me, on the other side of the ring. 


I found one today. 

Not the biggest, or the most resource-rich, unfortunately, but it will do fine, judging from the scans. 

It’s the larger kind we’re looking for, the ones filled with iron, and steel, and ore, and a hundred other elements we don’t even yet understand. Those are the ones we can use. 

Obtaining the scans is a tricky process. The scanners’ range is hardly more than a few dozen meters, so I need to get close, and stay close, for it takes time. Only a few minutes, but in a swirling ocean of moon fragments, a few minutes can feel like days.  

So I sit there, every muscle tensed, growing slick and damp and hot with sweat, eyes darting between the view screens on the control panel, listening to the alarms that whine and fade, firing the retros, dodging bits of passing debris. 

Eventually the scans finish, and I’m left with a clear picture of whether or not the asteroid in question has what we need or not. 

This one did, as I said, and so I fired a pulser—a homing signal that embeds in the rock.

The others, Clarke and Nichols and Jennings, they’ll be along after a while, lumbering above the ring in The Piazzi, and then the asteroid I’ve scanned will be swallowed up, deconstructed inside the belly of The Piazzi, flensed of all its precious metals, and the remainder spewed out with the rest. 

But until then, it sits there, waiting, pulsing. 

Sometimes, after I’ve finished with a particularly large asteroid, I’ll fly up into the void, and sweating, drink a toast to the Sisyphus ring and Erebus and all the universe while I wait for my heartbeat to come down from its thundering. 

I’ve measured it, of course. The ring’s circumference, I mean. Seven hundred twenty-three thousand, nine hundred and eighty-three kilometers. Just over seven hundred thousand kilometers, say.

It’s smaller than Saturn’s rings, though vastly different. Saturn’s are all ice and dust particles. Nothing useful. No, the Sisyphus ring is one of asteroids. Asteroids of every shape and size. Leftover chunks of what used to be Erebus’ moons, I’d wager, though there’s really no way to know. 

Seven hundred thousand kilometers of asteroids. And I must cover all of them, before I return to the crew, and the station. The Rock, we call it. A joke, of course, though some nights, alone inside my Hulker, staring out at Erebus, I feel it to be a darker irony than I’d care to admit.

Ah, yes, Erebus. A massive, blue Super-Earth, lashed by the swirling white clouds of a perpetual winter. 

But I can pretend, out here by myself.

So I float up in the Hulker and stare at Erebus, and Sisyphus, and pretend that I’m lying on a beach somewhere, basking in the warmth of a dual sunset.

And eventually I return, drifting back down into the ring, waiting until the last possible moment before I punch the throttle and tear into the ring once again, searching for the next asteroid.  

Always searching. 


You find strange things, in the ring. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve had too much to drink. Of course, that’s part of the appeal, but it doesn’t make it any less weird. 

Today, I saw a hand. 

A human hand. 

At first, I wasn’t sure—I was going so fast—but when I circled back and watched it float past the cockpit, there was no doubt. Five fingers and a wrist. They were black, which made me think of Jennings, which got me worried. What if it actually was Jennings’ hand? What if something happened?

No. I can’t do that to myself. Letting those thoughts creep in ... I’ll go mad.

Mankind has been among the stars for centuries now. Things don’t exactly decay quickly in space, of course. That hand could be anyone’s. Some unfortunate freighter’s, or maybe even one of the Lost Astronauts, blown apart in that famous incident back in ’55. 

You see something like that—a hand—and it makes you wonder ... how long hasit been out here? Who did it belong to? 

And as unsettling as it is, I almost enjoyed it. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m in the ring. Call it a fascination with the macabre.

There’s a poem. It’s really nothing more than a children’s rhyme; I can’t remember where I heard it, but it goes something like this:  

it’s standing on the brink
that makes us truly think

But even so. I’d like to get back around to the other side. To The Rock, and Nichols, and Clarke, and Jennings. Jennings with his severed hand. 

Kidding aside, I want to see Jenna. I want to make it back for our anniversary. 


Jenna and I have been married for fifteen years. Well, in a month it will be fifteen years. 

We worked together, in the Department for Space Colonization. She asked me out, of course. It’s a wonder she took interest in me at all, I was so dull. A sad, cynical kid who had seen too much of life, or thought he had, at least, and decided he knew all the answers.

But she liked me, for whatever reason, and we married. 

It didn’t take long before we realized something was wrong. It was the sex. On our wedding night, she cried, a trend that would continue throughout our marriage, though eventually she took to slipping into the bathroom, and running the faucet while she wept, so I wouldn’t hear.

But I knew, laying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. I knew.  

It wasn’t her fault. I was the one who couldn’t “perform.” So I went to the surgeons, I took the pills. I tried everything. Nothing worked. And the worst part? I didn’t care.

Until we came out here.

The change was immediate. Our marriage was transformed into a passionate love affair. The kind that seems so perfect it must have been plotted, laid out beforehand by someone who’s gone ahead and worked out all the details that would otherwise have slipped past unnoticed. Suddenly I loved her. Really loved her.

But it was more than that. More than just sex. I thought I had known Jenna when we flew out here. How wrong I was. Oh, I knew of her, about her. Of course I did. Fifteen years of marriage would bring you to that conclusion, wouldn’t it? But only when we made it out here did I learn how much you can really know a person.

How much you can love a person.

And everything that had come before, the woes, the mishaps, the embarrassment, the numbness.  All of it was forgotten. As easily as a dream that disappears with the coming of the morning.  

So, yes, I’m glad I came here. Even during these trips around the ring, when we’re apart for a few weeks, even then, I’m glad. It makes the return so much more pleasant, after all.

I know exactly what we’ll do when I get back, Jenna and me. And I do hope to make it back in time for our anniversary.


Collision today. It’s a brilliant sight to behold. Two massive asteroids. A million soundless shards splintering out into the void, casting their seed into the abyss. 

There is no sound in space, of course. But to hear something so spectacular. The thundering, wrenching, grating of two objects, shredding one another. I wish that I could hear it. Another sense to experience the world through.

Ever since Jenna and I came out here—ah, I see the universe in colors, and it is beautiful indeed. I think the imminence of danger forces beauty to jump from unexpected places.

And the Sisyphus ring isn’t like what man once knew of asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. And of course it’s nothing like Saturn’s rings. The orbits haven’t stabilized, and so collisions are frequent.


I spent a long time hovering above the ring today, drinking to the stars. I was shaken up pretty badly, after what happened. I don’t want to think about it.

Though I feel that I must. Something’s not right. I have to get back to The Rock. I need to make sure they’re all right.

I found another asteroid, actually. Or at least that’s how it started. It was toward the outer edge. One of the biggest I’d seen—so of course I zipped over to check it out.

And I was right. The scans came back positive. Chock full of iron. So I tagged it. Shot it with a pulser.

And then, just as I was about to move on, I saw something, in the uppermost part of my vision.

The Piazzi.

It was like watching a massive fish swim overhead. Sliding through the darkness like a spectre, blotting out the light above us like a puddle of spreading ink. The front was opened wide—the whale shark’s mouth, hungry for asteroids.

But then I blinked. And it was gone.

I radioed to it, but the only sound that returned was static. The ring obscures all communications. And The Piazzi can’t actually be here with me. It’s on the other side, far behind. But perhaps I should go after it? It couldn’t hurt ...

Ah, what is happening to me? I must be going mad!

But isn’t that why I came out here in the first place? For the madness? For the danger? To look down from the brink? To stare into the abyss?

It was all Jenna, of course. She was the one who pushed me. And I, numb as a leper, followed.

Did she know this was what I needed? How could she have known? Perhaps she was sick of the life we were living. Perhaps she was bored, like I was. Most days, I’d walk through the door of our apartment and fall on the bed. Hardly even bothering to give her a glance—pretty as she was with her auburn hair and freckled smile.

I can hardly believe it of myself. Why would anyone want to live that way?

But the answer’s simple, really.

Numbness. Numbness is safe.

Jenna knew that. And I think she knew the only way to cut through it all. You have to feel again. And to feel again, you must experience pain and awe, and a hundred other emotions. You must feel the thrill of death. Once you know that, everything else falls into place.

So when Jenna saw that a team was going out to Erebus, she signed us up.

The planet held little as far as prospects were concerned. A cold, winterized orb, most likely uninhabitable. But the asteroids held promise, as far as research was considered, at least.

I had never seen anything like it, when we first arrived. Those asteroids, rolling and spinning and colliding. And the ring. There was nothing so immense, so vast as the Sisyphus ring. It spread around Erebus in a wide arc, swallowing everything.

We went to work immediately. I would set out in the Hulker, The Piazza following as I waded into the ring.

Back then I was very unskilled, and slid between the rocks in sprints and hesitations, waiting, trying to avoid a collision. But over time, things changed. The numbness that had held to me so firmly back on Earth slipped away. Danger. That was what I found. A perilous brink, which looked down into the abyss.

And the abyss looks back.

Because it’s not just those asteroids that are always within an arm’s reach. That cause your breath to catch in your throat with a short, indrawn gasp.

It’s death.

What did I see, up there in the darkness? Was it really The Piazzi? Or just some apparition, come to haunt me? I’d rather not think about it.

What did I see?


The asteroids have been numerous as of late.

The usable ones, I mean. I must have tagged a dozen at least over the past few days, which is good. It helps to keep my mind off what happened, with The Piazzi.

But it also has me thinking. And out here, in a place like this, thinking can be dangerous.

Say I was mad. Say I had lost all sense of reason, and imagined The Piazzi completely. What would that mean? Is it so terrible to be crazy? I suppose the worst that could happen is I get back to The Rock and see Jenna again, and everything would return to normal.

Ah, Jenna. I miss her.

Jenna is my rock. For Jenna, I mustn’t go mad. I won’t. I will take this danger she gave me. I will make it the foundation upon which I build. This Brink.

This Perilous Brink.


I’m close. Ah, but I’m close.

The opposite side of Erebus. I wasn’t sure, but I can see the flicker from The Rock now. Only two weeks until our anniversary.

Two weeks.

And speaking of Jenna, I remember where I heard that poem I mentioned earlier. From Jenna, of course, as nearly everything has been.

It would have been soon after we first met. We had gone for a walk. The stars were beautiful that night, and the moon a pale fingernail glowing in the darkness.

“It’s so beautiful,” she said.

I nodded.

And then she quoted it:

it’s standing on the brink
that makes us truly think.

I had no idea what it meant, but she did.

In some way or another, we all need a ledge. Something that forces us to act. That’s all this was. My Brink.

But what happens when that grows stale? What happens when you find yourself repeating? When the thrill of staring down into the void falls into the same monotony that you fled in the first place?

What then?


I parked my Hulker over the ring today and did some housecleaning. My quarters have gotten a bit messy, since I left. So I went back there and made my bed, and packed up the bottles I’ve gone through. Far too many ...

It was months ago, now, that I set out from The Rock, and radioed goodbye for the final time. Communication is impossible, with the asteroids and the planet, especially on the dark side. Something about the ring. A good deal of their metals are magnetized, which messes with our equipment. I don’t understand it all, to be honest, but I know that it happens.

But now, it’s nearly over.


Another vision today. Or hallucination. Either way it’s no good.

Now I know I’m going mad. What’s happening to me?

Nichols this time. Floating by. Still clothed in his spacesuit, rolling cartwheels through the air like a circus clown.

I tried to shake it off, but I can’t seem to get that image out of my head.


I was something, back on Earth. You’d think I was some geeky character, with glasses and a terrible haircut, wouldn’t you? But no, I was actually quite popular.

Which is why it was so strange that I should leave. No one understood it. I made it out as if Jenna was forcing me to go. My friends nodded, with their sad looks and sympathetic smiles, which made me feel good, of course.

But deep down, I wanted to go. I was relieved. Relieved for something different. A change. Anything to end the numbness. For so long I had stood upon a plateau, until I had all but forgotten what it was like to look down from a ledge and think.

I’d been stuck. In that same rut that so many find unwittingly.


Last night, I pulled up out of the ring and watched Erebus for hours, drinking one of my last bottles of Scotch. I’d been saving it for a special occasion, but I’m almost back to the station, and I’d rather not share it.

When I was finished, I smashed the bottle on the floor. The neck was still intact, and I held it like a rod, and pressed it into my arm until a little stream of blood came running down.

Yes, I can feel that.

What am I doing? Has it come to this again? Do I need to inflict pain upon myself just to feel? That’s why I’m out here.

No! I believe we have a choice, how can you not? There is feeling in the danger, freedom in the chaos, but what freedom? Surely there is more! 

I cannot believe that there is not. 


Debris. Chaos. I’ve begun to grow scared. All I seem to find are pieces of The Rock, strewn between the asteroids. Scattered like dice among the stars. What is this? What happened?


I will not let these visions get the better of me. I will not repeat myself, the mistakes I’ve made. I will not be drawn back to that same plateau I fled so many months ago.


What is waiting for me, back there? I can’t help but think that I’m chasing something.

What though?

What will I find over there, amidst those flashing lights? I can see them now, quite clearly actually. Perhaps a day’s flight away, maybe two.

Yet somehow, part of me doesn’t want to return.

I’ve even made it back on schedule. Our anniversary isn’t for another week. But still, I’m scared.

No, not scared. Numb. Somehow, I’ve grown accustomed to this life. The thrill of the flight among the asteroids.

I want to fall back into the same patterns I’ve always succumbed to. I want to venture around this ring, doomed to repeat myself again and again, to fall back into a lifestyle that wouldn’t allow for anything so dangerous as knowing.


It’s been two days. Two days that I’ve been hovering far above the Sisyphus ring, watching those flashing lights of The Rock.

I’m almost completely out of supplies now, though. Now I have to return.

Standing upon The Brink. On one side, there is the void. A vast nothingness that stretches out into ... more of the same. Nothingness on top of nothingness. 

God help me, that sounds awful! To go through all of life numb, only to find that in the end there is only abyss. Surely there is more! There must be. I cannot believe that there isn’t.

But what? Faith? Religion? God? I don’t know. 

It’s on The Rock. I know it is. I’m ... I’m going to it.

Jenna is waiting.


I found it.

I was so scared, but here it is, before me, just as I left it.

In a million pieces.

Ah, now I remember, of course. The accident. The explosion, when we started building with those elements we didn’t understand. When we started putting them together, as if we knew what we were doing. Adding asteroid metals that we didn’t even comprehend.

Some of those ... well, some of those weren’t as pliable as we had hoped.

And they tore The Rock apart. Ripped it in half, and spewed the shreds into the ring, cast a ripple through the Sisyphus ring that circled around the whole thing, sending asteroids crashing into one another, shredding into a thousand pieces.

I had just arrived from a mission, when it happened. I saw it all, from the cockpit of my Hulker. Saw The Rock tear itself apart. And when the explosions hit the reactor core ... well, the meltdown stopped the silent screams in my throat.

Jenna. Gone.

She was all that I had, and she was who brought me here. To escape.

So for her, I couldn’t fall to the same pattern that had taken me before. Even now, I fight it. If I let grief, sadness, loss, hopelessness creep into my life, I would have gone to that one place where I feel comfortable.

The plateau.

And that is a dangerous place to be indeed. Dangerous in a subtle, sneaky way. Dangerous in a way you don’t expect.

So I fell to the ring. The Sisyphus ring. Around again, I went, searching for the asteroids. That was why I was here, after all. That was my purpose. I couldn’t let a meltdown and an explosion stop me, could I? All that ... that would have been crippling.

And Nichols, and Jennings’ hand. Those, those visions. They were real, all of them. I’m not going mad. I’m just a fool, scared to death of never feeling again.

But I must feel. I must face those deaths.

And Jenna? What happened to my Jenna? She brought me out here. She was the one who saved me. She was the danger that I needed. She knew the pain I needed to feel.

There must be something more than her though, for me to have come this far. For me to have felt this much. There has to be. I cannot believe otherwise.

So I slide back into the ring, searching. Always searching.

And, ah, but the asteroids are beautiful tonight. END

JT Gill lives in Virginia and writes in worlds of his own. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in “Crack the Spine,” “Cease, Cows” “Every Day Fiction,” “Daily Science Fiction,” and “The Molotov Cocktail,” where he won the 2015 Flash Fool contest.


callahan 9/16