Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


A Breath of Aphrodite
by Rebecca Birch

An Undiplomatic Incident
by Paul R. Hardy

Deus Ex Parasitus
by Josh Pearce

Dust to Dust
by Richard Wren

Space Horses
by Diane Ryan

Mercy Park
by Patrick Wiley

Patient, Creature
by Andrew Muff

by Timothy J. Gawne

Shorter Stories

Turn Off, Tune Out and Reboot
by J.R. Hampton

Sky Widows
by Matthew F. Amati

Crottled Greeps
by John Teehan


This is the Way the World Ends
by Carol Kean

A Reason for Returning to the Moon
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





Sky Widows

By Matthew F. Amati

“I’LL BE BACK,” SAM SAID, and kissed me.

It was wrenching to say goodbye. I was pregnant with our first child. But duty called my husband. I stood with the other spouses and partners as we watched the rocket lift off from the Cape and disappear into the blue.

One year. They would return in one year. And I’d have a baby for Sam.

A voice barked “What’s that sex doll doing here?”

One of the wives stared at me with fear and disgust. I get this from time to time.

It’s because I am a manufactured person. Does that make Sam’s and my love less real? Love conquers things a lot stranger than the little accidents of one’s origin.

“That baby in you,” the woman said, sneering at my round stomach, “is it a plastic freak, too?”

Our baby is flesh, I explained, as neutrally as I could. Born of Sam’s DNA and a donor egg. Only my womb and I are plastic.

I brushed off the prejudice. At home I made the nursery ready for Baby Alice. I counted the days until the rocket would return.


On the day the rocket was due, it didn’t appear.

Mission Central didn’t know why. The rocket had vanished. Anything could have delayed it.

Delayed, they said. Not destroyed. But the difference, when you talk star travel, is negligible.

My man was missing, presumed dead. I mourned Sam, but I held onto a small hope that he might come back to us someday. And I got on with my life. I had someone else to live for.


I returned to the Cape on the second anniversary of the launch. The others came too, along with my adversary. Vendra was her name.

“Well, if it isn’t the love doll,” Vendra snapped. “How’s that freak baby of yours?”

“Fine,” I said, not taking the bait. “Cheerful, curious. Loves Play-Doh.”

I scanned the skies for the rocket that wasn’t there. I said a silent prayer for Sam and returned home.


Most of us came back the following May, although we’d more or less resigned ourselves to our losses. Vendra said “You again. How’s the hellspawn?”

I didn’t tell her how Alice was outwardly irrepressible, but was beginning to feel the sadness of never having met her father. How I told and retold Alice the story of how her brave daddy soared off into the sky and never came back.


Visits to the Cape became a yearly ritual. So did Vendra’s barbs.

“Hey! Sex toy! Still pretending to be a mommy?”

“Yes, Vendra. Alice is thirteen. Got straight A’s this year.”

I felt sorry for Vendra. I had Alice, after all. With her man gone, Vendra had no one.


“It’s the plastic whore again! How’s that foul birth-fruit of yours?”

“She’s eighteen. Scholarship to an arts school in Canada.”


“How’s that abomination you birthed?”

“She graduated. She’s in New York, trying to make it as a sculptor.”


“It’s the love doll! Your kid turn to plastic yet?”

“She and her girlfriend just got married. Wedding on top of a mountain in Vancouver.”


Fewer and fewer loved ones returned each May. Crows-feet settled around eyes; waistlines expanded.

“No grey in your hair, eh? We get older, you look the same. Till someone recycles you.”

Yes, Vendra. The advantages of being plastic, I guess.


The time finally came when it was down to only Vendra and me. “What’s up with your little mutant?”

“Fine,” I said curtly. I was done sharing. I didn’t tell Vendra how Alice had won the commission for the war memorial and been on TV. No sense in provoking this woman.


Time passes for everyone, and you don’t know where it’s gone. Vendra’s spite didn’t lessen. “How’s the baggie-baby?” she asked. I said nothing, but I recalled how last Christmas I’d noticed my baby’s hair was streaked with grey. It was an odd contrast: a mother who looked like a teenager, a daughter approaching middle age.


Years passed. To the Cape, I brought Alice’s triumphs, her tragedies. Her genius grant, her divorce. I brought them silently. No sense eliciting more venom.


“Hi there again, sex toy,” Vendra croaked. “How’s the freak family doing?”

I trembled, but kept quiet. I didn’t tell Vendra that this had been the terrible year of Alice’s diagnosis. My daughter was old, but she should have had more years in her. After she’d died, I’d gone back to the house, and resumed my life. It wasn’t until a few months after, when I imagined I saw Alice’s shape in the doorway, that I’d broken down.


We kept returning, year after year. Vendra was in a wheelchair now, blind and tiny. But she still pelted me with insults every time we met. Our strange connection: both alone, both compelled to keep this vigil.


One bright May morning, the rocket appeared. Just like that.

We learned the ship had been damaged, forced to return at sublight speeds. Relativity had worked its voodoo. For the crew, only two years had passed. For us, a lifetime.

Seven young men and women emerged. They left wordlessly. They knew their loved ones were long gone.

An eighth young man emerged. Vendra’s.

He scanned the waiting area. I saw it dawn on him that the shriveled wreck in the wheelchair was his wife. I turned my eyes away.

Out of the rocket stepped my Sam.

“Our baby ...” I began.

“I know,” he said. We embraced.

“I’ve missed out on our life together,” Sam said.

“I’m still here,” I told him. “Still young on the outside, for what that’s worth.”

“You!” Vendra called to me, from across the concourse. “You’re an abomination! You didn’t deserve to live even one life. It’s not fair that you get another! It’s not fair!” She doubled up, coughing.

Vendra’s stricken young husband wheeled her out of the room.

“Wow,” said Sam. “Friend of yours?”

“God, no.”

I hugged Sam fondly.

My dear Sam. My dear fifty-third husband, father of my sixty-seventh child. I was overjoyed not to be left a widow again.

And I promise you, life is felt just as keenly, no matter how many times you live it.

“Welcome home,” I said to Sam. “I’ve got some baby pictures to show you.” END

Matthew F. Amati has been a farmhand, a Chinese interpreter, a mail sorter at a hot dog factory, and a professor of Classics. As a writer, his stories have appeared in “Daily Science Fiction,” “Flash Fiction Online,” “Space Squid,” and elsewhere.