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




Turn Off, Tune Out and Reboot

By J.R. Hampton

REFRESH YOURSELF WITH THE delicious cool, crisp taste of Popsi-Cola. Yes, what you want is a Popsi-Cola to quench that thirst. When you think of refreshment, think of ice-cold Popsi-Cola.

The can was warm. The cola was flat. From the office to here, it was the third vending machine in a row that had called out to Quadrian. He tipped the contents into a nearby roaming recyclo-bin, turned up his music, and hurried to the park.

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Under the shade of an old weathered canopy, Quadrian settled onto a solitary bench. Above, a faulty digitalised advertisement board blinked out its tantalising tickets for a trip to the moon. The cracked panels of the board distorted the happy family’s faces as they peered out from the window of their rocket. Below, Quadrian leant back and let out a satisfactory sigh. It was his favourite part of the park. Here he could people-watch, here he could be alone.

To listen out for any sounds, he turned off the music. Once he’d heard the trill of a bird against the backdrop of the constant hum of sky-cabs, atmospheric pumps and service drones, its distinct and natural melody had somehow made him feel at ease.

As he settled into his space, his eyes traced a line of ants zig-zagging across the asphalt between his shoes. He wondered how the world around him appeared to the bugs. Did they come here, too, for the same reason?

He zoomed in on the park. In front of the city’s technological skyline, a teenage boy sat on a wall, captivated by his own little world. It was funny how oblivious he seemed to his surroundings, entranced in some electronic game or video player. The boy was a regular feature in the park, always in the same spot.

It was by no chance that Quadrian had decided to pick out his very own space in the park. Not only was it away from the beady eyes of the closed circuit television cameras, it was in the path of a young lady who he’d seen jogging by every lunchtime.

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He watched the mossy path snake around the corner to the place where she would appear.

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Scrolling through a zoetrope of birthday parties, holiday snaps, humorous videos and unfinished puzzles, he reached into the back of his mind and brought up the image of the young lady. He liked the clutter of freckles beneath her warm green eyes, the way some loose strands of blonde hair played across her face and the smile that somehow seemed contented.

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Quadrian didn’t want to think. He was tired of thinking. He wanted her. He wanted to know what she thought, what she felt. He wanted to know if her smile belonged to her or whether it was purchased. He wanted to turn off the world.

Warning! The supposition you are trying to visit may harm your implant. Access has been blocked. Activate Anti-Notion Security Pro™ to enable safe surfing—recommended.

To help block out his thoughts, he searched the audio downloads for the sound of the bird.

Warning! The memory you are attempting to access is using a security certificate that could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?

A slow constant droning began to fill his head.

Warning! A script on this thought is causing your implant to become unresponsive. Mindset is checking for a solution to fix this problem ...

To block out the noise, Quadrian turned up his music.

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Feeling along the nape of his neck, his fingernails scratched at the base of the implant.

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The tiny nodule hid deep beneath the skin. As his fingers traced the implant a rush of memories poured into his mind.

At night, tiny patterns used to assemble themselves into fantastical worlds upon his bedroom ceiling. From the comfort of his cot, he remembered watching the colourful rocket-ships blasting past the cornices, bright stars swirling around the light fittings, and an array of cute bears tumbling down the walls. Now, he thought, how many of those pictures were his own?

As a teenager he remembered the moment he managed to hack into the restricted adult content. Xenia/ was his first love. He’d reach out to touch her electronically tanned skin and exotic digitalised contours, but could never feel her. After a while, he’d replay her start-up script over and over each night as it was the only part of her program in which he could just talk to her. When the other boys would trade their programs after school, he always kept Xenia/ to himself—she was his alone.

During his college years, his mind was crammed full with educational software. His father had wanted him to become a climate control engineer but Quadrian had rebelled and chosen to run an arts program instead. The holographic installations of the mid-21st century artist, Luca Brogelli, had always intrigued him. On a trip to Italy, he’d seen the original displays towering above the Roman colonnades—albeit restored from the initial designs.

It was whilst accessing the local widgets and information points in Italy that he had met Renata. He’d since erased most of his memories of her, presumably as another failed romance, but somehow parts of her had stubbornly remained. From her defragmented images he could recollect her dark face against the backdrop of baked-clay plant pots, wild flowers, and cluttered bookcases. He liked her accent—it comforted him. And from her scrambled words she’d said something about the implant. Now, he tried to recall a comment he’d once heard, about how to disable it.

Attention! Your Mindset account has been temporarily blocked due to illegal activity detected on this implant. Your domain has been seized as part of a joint law enforcement operation with the International Crime Unit. Under planetary law you could face a maximum of up to ten years in a state prison and a $10,000,000 fine.

Zig-zagging along the mossy path, he stumbled in front of the teenage boy. He looked desperately into the cold fixed eyes of the boy, who failed to acknowledge him. By now, Quadrian could feel the warm trickle of blood on his neck.

Error. A problem with your implant has been detected and needs to shut down. Mindset is collecting some data before it restarts.

At first it felt strange. Quadrian could see and hear the distant sky-cabs, atmospheric pumps, and service drones but something was missing. Standing up, he searched the park for adverts, widgets and information points. From the eerie silence he noticed the hum was gone too—replaced with a melodic trill of a bird.

With his arms held out in front of him, Quadrian tried to follow the sound. It was then that another started to flood his ears. One that he’d never heard before. A deep watery echo swished in and out and a faint pulsating thud became audible inside of his head. The rhythmic thudding became louder as he stumbled towards the bushes searching for something on which to steady himself.

Struggling to keep on his feet, he staggered back to the safety of the bench. His fingernails dug into the wooden back as he attempted to shield his eyes from the blinding florescent light of the digitalised advertisement board, which now bore down on him. He struggled to make sense of the shifting pixelated faces that ridiculed his distress. The digital family’s fuzzy grins and bright blinking eyes appeared to be conspiring against him—he shut his eyes tightly.

He could feel a stinging pain emanate from the back of his neck. He tried to shake off a now rising buzz, like the sound of a fly—but from within his skull.

Huddling into the foetal position, he nestled himself onto the bench, pressing his palms against his ears and squeezing his eyes shut. In the self-imposed darkness, the buzz began to fade.

Your implant has successfully rebooted. Unfortunately, Mindset could not install some of your files. They may be corrupt or missing. We recommend that you back up your files now. Think Backup.

Before returning to the office, Quadrian was struck by the beautiful face of a jogger as she raced passed him. He noticed the clutter of freckles beneath her warm green eyes, the way some loose strands of blonde hair played across her face and the smile that somehow seemed contented. She seemed familiar. He captured her image, and saved it.

Refresh yourself with the delicious cool, crisp taste of Popsi-Cola. Yes, what you want is a Popsi-Cola to quench that thirst. When you think of refreshment, think of ice-cold Popsi-Cola.

The can was warm. The cola was flat. END

J.R. Hampton is a writer based in Coventry, U.K. His short stories have appeared in “The Pygmy Giant,” “Flash Fiction Magazine,” “The Flash Fiction Press,” and elsewhere. By day, he teaches English at a further education college.




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