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




Thunder Lizard

By William Suboski

JOYOUS WELLS SYSOPS remains trapped, and trapped alone, in a small station 12,400 light years from Earth, her only and constant companion Maincore Alan, the computer which serves as the Chester Station caretaker. She stayed behind when her team left. They stepped through the doorway, the magnificent Path whose other side opened in Relay, and flashed immediately to that distant and eponymously-named deep-space station. Did they make it home, or were they, like her, trapped somewhere? She would probably never know.

She had joined the corps after her life changed. The corps with its whimsical attitude—“We are the window washers and plumbers of the galaxy, boldly going where many have gone before, to scrape paint and unplug toilets ... to do the tedious jobs and change the circuitry that no one else wants to do, but everyone wants done”—had been the perfect escape when Alpha One burst open.

And one day on a whim of her own she had stayed behind after her team left. She had had few whims since Jacob fell from Alpha One. A mumbled explanation to her team had been reason enough; no reason had been necessary. She had gone outside and climbed the cliff. Gazing upward into the dazzling star cluster she was at that minute the farthest that anyone had been from Earth. Grandeur followed by a chill—she was the farthest that anyone had been from Earth. She hurried back inside, and mere hours later the station Maincore computer had been unable to re-open a Path and so it had remained these many years.


Joyous spends more and more time in the ufog cloud chamber, in which aerosolized nanobots can take any shape and show any color. Anything and all things are possible in a cloud chamber, any scene from history, all cities real and imaginary. Any slice through three-space can become a plane on which images are shown. Any complex three-dimensional figures can be colored and shaded. Is an apple an apple or only the exterior shell of an apple? There is no way to know as one sees only the shell. The tiny elements can even cling to the subject, and change one’s appearance and create the illusion of abilities. Thus clinging ufog elements can make an apple appear to be an orange. The cloud chamber is a truly immersive reality.

Many days Joyous visits happy places: Paris in the spring; Washington for the cherry blossoms; New England for fall colors. But some days are darker than others. And this day she takes vengeance, even if only flailingly, against plastic villains in paper towns in a Potemkin landscape.


Witness Mr. Lester Sandoval, until lately a senior executive with a large company, now returned home, overcome with guilt for a terrible mistake. Mr. Sandoval has tried to set right his mistake but on this sunny morning he will learn that guilt and responsibility can never be fully set aside. Sandoval was a senior executive at Proto Sagittarius, the largest contractor of exo-Earth habitats—space stations to the layman—and the principal builder of Alpha One.


All testing is complete. The nanobots that form the ufog easily cling to Joyous. A moderate layer of them and she becomes something else, another man or woman, another creature. All things appear. Is the inside of a brick real? One sees only the surface. Covered in ufog, the she inside is the interior of stone and to all who might see her—no other living person on Chester Station—appears only a terrible lizard. I am full and grieved and driven by pain and gravid with loss and seeking revenge and today I shall have it!

Alan spoke very gently. “Joyous, please don’t do this.”

“My husband died so that Lester Sandoval could cut costs. And then he built a town and named it after himself and invited me to visit.”

“All you will be doing is disrupting ufog images—nothing more.”

“I want to, Alan. It will feel good. The real Lester Sandoval is already dead. So I can kill him again and again if only in image.”

“This isn’t who you are, Joyous. And this isn’t who you should become.”


This town is idyllic America, a sun-dappled California beach town sketched in sunlight and painted in shades of green, then dipped in dark honey. The day had started warm and cloudless and grown ever warmer and the slow pace of life in Sand Oval, California, crept along as every other day. The cool breeze from the ocean was scented salt air and oddly refreshing. The oceanside highway curved lazily through town, past cheeseburger cafes and open air markets and theaters long overdue for fresh paint, yet nonetheless festooned with the latest posters. Each day is endless summer in Sand Oval.

And out to sea the snout of the great lizard was barely perceptible above the waves. A smear of deep pink-purple, two tiny nostrils, well hidden in the swells and waiting for the exact moment. Those few townspeople who noticed it barely glanced before turning back to their business of the day. Surely it is only seaweed or algae blown by the breeze, nothing more? Hidden in the waters, the submerged lizard appeared as a swatch of purple pink on the blue ocean and bluer sky.

And it is only at street level that the true oddness of this town becomes apparent. Each man, each woman in a summer dress, every child of either gender, and every baby wears the same face ... a middle-aged man, slightly wrinkled, going gray at the temples. Each and every is exactly alike, wearing the face of Lester Sandoval.

The scaly monster crawls out of the ocean. It was twenty meters high at the shoulder and its body a full sixty meters long. The long tail was the same length again, and the dead-eyed beast could move its body length in an eye blink. The carcass was reptilian nightmare, almost a shortened crocodile, a uniform color except for patches of slightly darker purple. The giant head of the beast swung back and forth. Those people closest fled across the highway, and often into the path of traffic. The lizard smiled at the music of screams and squealing tires and twisting metal.

It spoke in a voice of thunder, “All of you, all of you Lester Sandovals, will die here today!”

The tongue shot from the mouth and ran down every street, making a left or right turn at each village edge, crossing and re-crossing itself many times, until for an instant it was a grid kilometers long, hanging in space throughout the village. Then faster than vision, the kilometers of tongue were retracted into the mouth, and the great lizard knew the location of each citizen.

The Joy-lizard lifted its right front leg and looked at the claw. Talons, razor sharp and three meters long, that could slash through a car. It looked up and focused on a billboard. The yellow slits of its eyes narrowed and opaque red beams from each eye met on the billboard. In an instant a hole had been burned through the now flaming sign. The Joy-lizard smiled again. Heat vision working as expected.

It reached down with its claw and picked up a bus, easily held, looking like a toy. It peered through the front window but saw no Lesters inside it. A shame, but this town is full of them. The Joy-lizard crumpled the bus and tossed it up and backward, where it splashed into the ocean half-a-kilometer out to sea.

The tongue shot again from the slimy mouth, this time in a great sweeping arc. It sliced through air, then through a stone building as if it, too, were air. The stonework above the slash crumbled as the tongue cut through the outer wall. This time the Joy-lizard grinned.

“I have located all of you. Remain where you are. Do not move! Any Sandoval that tries to flee will be kept for a very slow and painful death after I destroy this town.”

The Joy-lizard advanced down Main St. Its head swept upward and side to side, and asphalt bubbled under the bright red beams. Each footstep was reverberant thunder. At each thud the claws closed, tearing the asphalt, each movement destroying as much as possible. The head swung back and forth, yellow eyes seeing all, as red rays flashed forth into fire. Sand Oval shimmered in the heat and began to burn.


After the accident, Lester Sandoval retired and retreated to his native California. A few kilometers from the seaside cottage he had been born in, he built a small community. He had immodestly named this “Sand Oval” and invited all affected loved ones to the opening. Joyous had been too angry to open her invitation.


The great lizard set the seaside park aflame. A wall of orange fire blocked the view of the ocean. The blue sky rippled and shimmered above the climbing flames. Joy-lizard crawled through them, tearing chunks of asphalt up and slashing trees to the ground. The welcome gate at the south side of town had been smashed by the tail and the lizard headed to the north side to complete the isolation. Sandovals watched in terror, from windows, peeking from behind walls, as the lizard led fire through their town.

A single lash of the tail and the ornate redwood welcome gate was smashed into kindling. Emergency sirens started to blare in the village behind it. The Joy-lizard smiled. Sandovals had ignored her. They were trying to save their town, even while it was still under attack. They will pay for that. Tiny little men, unable to follow even simple instructions, cowards who harm others, worshippers of Mammon sacrificing others on the altar ... sacrificing Jacob. They will pay for that.

Joy-lizard turned around, heading back into town and for the first time saw the memorial.

The lizard spoke, “Alan, what is this?”

Alan spoke softly from all around her.

“You said you wanted a complete representation. This memorial was built by Lester Sandoval at Sand Oval.”

And with a lurch the game was over. Her lizard-self started to dissolve even as she shrank. The ufog fell from her, leaving her human again. But she knew that it was only illusion. She was not shrinking. The representation of Sand Oval was “enlarging,” shells expanding to change her perceptual scale. Finally, she stood at the doorway of the memorial. An average man with a Sandoval face appeared in an obvious projection. The man spoke, a recorded message.


“My name is Lester Sandoval. For many years I was a manager/designer with Proto Sagittarius. I accomplished many things of which I was—and still am—very proud. But all of this changed with one terrible decision.

“I was chief designer on the Alpha One project. I had final authority. Certain structural supports were intended to be installed with a 200 percent capacity. I approved a standards reduction and these components were installed at 125 percent.

"There was an accident. The safety backups were insufficient. Critical supports failed and people died. A review found that of the seven people who died, five deaths were a direct result of my decision: Gina Torres Nutrition, Jacob Wells Poet, Katya Yung Li Juvenile, Dmitri Yung Li Juvenile, Gregory Arlington Farmer.

“I wish that I could say that it wasn’t my fault. That someone else made the decision. That I wasn’t properly informed. But I cannot say that. I knew what I was doing, I took a terrible gamble and other people paid for my recklessness with their lives: Gina Torres Nutrition, Jacob Wells Poet, Katya Yung Li Juvenile, Dmitri Yung Li Juvenile, Gregory Arlington Farmer.

“I have created Sand Oval as a reminder, to myself, of the terrible thing that I have done, and in hopes that maybe in some small way someone else might be dissuaded from a similar path. Stand here and know the terrible mistake I made and learn from it. Do not do as I did. Be better than I was. Sand Oval will stand as a refuge for all those lost. Come and be welcome.

“I have declined treatment for esophageal cancer and my doctors say I will die within six weeks. I am so sorry.”


Joy shrugged. She was suddenly very tired. Her shoulders felt heavy and she just wanted to sleep.

“Is this real, Alan?”

“We become what we do, Joyous.”

“Is this real?”

“I have never lied to you, Joy. Lester Sandoval was topical in the weeks after the Alpha One tragedy and therefore frequently featured in daily updates. The text of his speech was given in several articles. I extrapolated his vocal delivery from recordings. Maps of Sand Oval were—”

“Stop ... Stop, Alan ... Stop the fires. Restore the town. I am going to walk on the beach.”

The sky clouded and the air wept raindrops that put out fires and dissolved rubble as buildings reformed. One brief minute and Sand Oval was as before. The skies cleared as smoke dissipated and sunlight poured down. And Joyous was not as her name as smaller raindrops still fell.


We all wear many garments throughout life and today, on this bright morning, a living Joyous Wells Sysops and a now deceased Lester Sandoval have learned again together that the overcoats of pain and responsibility are never easily removed, and never for long. END

William Suboski is a systems analyst when he is not writing. He has an associates degree in business computing and experience coding for diverse systems. His previous flash fiction for us was published in the 12-APR-2016 issue.


gawne 3/16


martin hanford


ryan ad