Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Peripheral Hope
by Derrick Boden

by M. Luke McDonell

Penal Eyes
by Frederick Obermeyer

Tells of the Block Widowers
by Jez Patterson

Cretaceous on Ice
by K.C. Ball

Some Quiet Time
by Eric Cline

Three Breaths
by Karl Dandenell

by Kathleen Molyneaux

Shorter Stories

Left Hand Awakens
by Beth Cato

Laws of Humanity
by Alexandra Grunberg

Aggressive Recruiting
by Drew Williams


Remakes, Sequels Sizzle in 2017
by Joshua Berlow

Calderas: Doomsday Underfoot
by John McCormick



Comic Strips




Penal Eyes

By Frederick Obermeyer

AT LIGHTS OUT, ROGER KANETTO placed the metal extractor goggles over his penal eyes and pulled them out of his sockets. It didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would, but the faint crunch of metal and flesh and the sudden brief shock of going blind filled him with such abject terror that he began shaking. The shadow-filled walls of the prison infirmary disappeared, replaced by total darkness.

Relax, Kanetto told himself. You’re fine.

Seconds later, one last popping sound indicated that the eyes were out of his sockets. Kanetto waited for an alarm to go off, indicating that the eyes had been tampered with. If he was discovered, guards would rush in and that would be the end of it.

Nothing happened, though.

The bribe Kanetto had given to the corrupt prison tech, Malcolm Heller, had worked. Three years earlier, Heller had secretly installed a virus into the prison’s computer eye monitoring system; the virus would trick the computer into thinking that the eyes were still active for one hour a night, even though they weren’t.

In the dark, Kanetto leaned over the side of his cot and reached under it, feeling around for the set of rigged cybernetic eyes that he had spent the past three years assembling with the help of his daughter, Bridget. As he felt around, he remembered the last time he had been blinded like this.

It had happened on his first day at Delberton State Correctional Facility in Upstate New York. Only three days after getting his real eyes removed and the penal eyes installed, the warden gave him and the other new fish a first hand demonstration on the futility of escape.

Once all the men had assembled in the prison courtyard, the warden shut off their vision for sixty seconds. Kanetto’s mouth had grown dry with fear, and his heart raced.

“If any of you attempt to go beyond the prison’s sight line, your penal eyes will automatically shut off your vision,” the warden had said after restoring their vision. He had pointed out the red line just beyond the prison’s barbwire and electrified fence. “In addition, we have tracking chips installed in your new eyes to follow you wherever you go, and we can check any prisoner’s vision at any time. Or we can shut it off remotely as we just showed you.

“In short, escape is impossible and we have recaptured every inmate who has made an attempt. So do us all a favor and don’t even try it.”

Bullshit, Kanetto thought back then. Watch me escape.

Back in the present, Kanetto’s fingers found the rigged eyes under the bed where he had hidden them earlier in the day. It took him a few seconds to pull out the penal eyes and then lay them on the bed.

For three years, night after night, Kanetto had used his one free hour to simulate removing the penal eyes and implanting the good ones. He did it over and over until it became second nature.

A few seconds later, he stuck the good eyes into his optic nerve plugs. The vision of his new eyes was slightly fuzzy. Bridget had used Heller and a corrupt guard, Paul Melgisen, to bring in the eye parts disguised as parts of mechanical devices.

Kanetto put on a watch Melgisen had left for him and checked it. Twenty-two zero one hours. The batteries of the new eyes used up a lot of juice, and he only had about an hour to escape the prison and get to the boat waiting for him on the Anvalor River. If he didn’t make it by then, the eyes would run out of power and he would be blind.

Kanetto looked at the security cameras on the ceiling. Another computer virus from Heller would project fake looping footage to fool the guards watching the screens.

Now was the time to escape. The only problem was Lou Staverns. The prison trustee was lying across from him with a broken right leg in a cast.

Kanetto slid out of bed quietly. Staverns was asleep, snoring loudly. Still, the bastard was a rat who would sell out his own mother to curry favor with the guards.

Kanetto crept past him. The solitary guard was sitting behind the metal bars on the other side of the infirmary, reading a tablet. He didn’t even look up.

There were two other prisoners in the infirmary, both asleep.

When Kanetto reached the far end of the infirmary, the rigged eyes flickered. Kanetto froze, fearing that the eyes were going to shut off.

A second later, the glitch passed. Kanetto sighed quietly, then he walked over to the nearby linen supply closet, opened the door and slipped inside. The room was filled with the pleasant scents of fabric softener and starch.

Unable to turn on the lights, Kanetto crept over to the metal shelf on the room’s right side and pulled aside the vacuum-sealed bags full of fresh sheets to reveal the linoleum floor. Once the bags were clear, he felt around the floor until he found the loose tiles. Kanetto pulled them aside.

A metallic click came from outside the linen closet.

Kanetto froze.

Another click.

Did they find me out of bed? Kanetto thought.

No more noise.

He sighed again and worked the tiles out of the floor with his fingers. Cold air drifted in from the tunnel under the floor. It had taken the tunneling robots almost two years to dig it. Not because they couldn’t do it faster, but rather to avoid detection.

Kanetto lay on the floor, sucked in his gut and slid his upper torso under the lowest shelf and down into the cold tunnel, followed by the rest of his body.

Beneath the floor, the air was even colder and Kanetto shivered. He braced himself against the concrete foundation and slowly lowered himself to the bottom of the first tunnel. The idea of so much dirt and cement caving in on him instantly made Kanetto sweat and shake.

He forced himself to breathe slowly and relax.

After another meter, he hit bottom and felt around. Metal nanofabricated support struts and wood had been placed around the dirt tunnel to keep it from collapsing. The tunnel itself was less than one meter high and slightly more than one meter wide.

Kanetto shivered even harder and hesitated. Claustrophobia slammed through his spine like the aftershock of an earthquake.

I can’t do this, Kanetto thought.

Goddamn it, Roger, you have to, he told himself. Bridget risked her freedom and her fortune to help you escape. Now you owe it to her and to Jimmy to get out of here.

Unable to proceed, Kanetto sighed and remembered his poor older brother, Jimmy.

Ten years earlier, Kanetto had been wrongfully accused and convicted of murdering Jimmy. Kanetto had tried to pull his schizophrenic, suicidal brother off the fortieth storey patio ledge of his penthouse in Manhattan. They had fought and Jimmy had scratched Kanetto’s right cheek with his fingernails before going over the side.

A tenant in a neighboring skyscraper had used a cell phone to record ten seconds of them fighting just before Jimmy fell. Filmed at a particular angle and shown out of context, it looked like Kanetto had deliberately shoved Jimmy off the building.

Even now, the image of Jimmy’s body hitting the street below made him nauseous.

One week later, the police had arrested Kanetto for first degree murder, even though he proclaimed his innocence. Later, the A.D.A. had claimed Kanetto was suffering from financial problems and faked his older brother’s suicide to inherit his wealth. After which, he would use his brother’s history of mental instability as an alibi.

Kanetto feared that he was doomed when he had first seen the jury picked out. Their cold glares had told him that they hated him and wanted to nail a rich man for murder. Even Bridget and his own defense testimony wasn’t enough to save him.

It had only taken the jury five hours to convict him of murdering Jimmy. From there, he had received life in prison without the possibility of parole. Fate had seemed further determined to crush any hope for release, as all his appeals were later rejected.

Now here he was, trapped in a hole and unable to escape.

Move it, you son of a bitch, Kanetto thought.

Kanetto breathed deeply and forced himself to crawl forward through the dark tunnel. The cold, dry earth pressed up against him, and his breath quickened. Despite feeling cold, sweat poured from his forehead; the tunnel ahead seemed endless, even though Bridget that had told him that it was only a little over one hundred meters from the linen closet to the point beyond the sight line.

After a seeming eternity of crawling, he reached the other side and collapsed. He was covered in dirt and lay shaking and gasping.

Come on, Rog, he told himself. You don’t have forever, so move it.

He groaned and climbed up the rungs that the robot had left in the ground. At the top, he discovered a small makeshift metal plate shot into the dirt with a hatch in the middle. Kanetto grabbed the hatch wheel, spun it clockwise and pulled it down. Above him lay some tufts of fake grass and soil. He tore them aside and peeked his head out.

He was around thirty meters past the fence and sight line. To further thwart escapes, however, the prison had been built on an open field. The nearest treeline was around two hundred meters away.

Bright lights shone outward from the prison fence.

Kanetto looked around. Fifty meters to his left, the road to the prison was quiet. To his right lay a flat open valley and houses in the far distance.

Kanetto slid out of the hole, shook some of the dirt from his hair and bolted for the treeline. Soon after he started running, his lungs burned. He had tried to keep in shape while in prison, but at fifty-three, running still tired him out quickly.

He began wheezing and the pain in his lungs grew sharper. After about a hundred meters, he had to stop and take a brief rest. Seconds later, he moved on, jogging at a slower pace. Every muscle in his body ached, but he forced himself to ignore the pain and keep moving.

When Kanetto finally reached the treeline, he collapsed against an oak tree. The pain in his lungs and legs was so great that he thought he would die right there. Still, the idea of dying after escaping from prison made him chuckle.

He forced himself to get back up and looked around. Bridget had marked some of the trees with blacklight dye that his rigged eyes could see. He saw the large dots on the trees and followed them into the woods.

Beyond the lights of the prison, it was dark. Kanetto shivered from fear as well as the cold. Above him, the sky was cloudy and a half-moon gave only vague illumination. Kanetto had no idea that the forest at night could be such a scary place. To calm himself, he took several deep breaths.

About a hundred meters into the woods, he groaned as he crashed into a pair of pricker plants. The nasty plants scratched him up, and he cried out as he stumbled away.

Little fuckers, Kanetto thought.

Kanetto walked around another patch of pricker plants and followed the dots through the forest to the river.

No problem.

Kanetto walked over the rough, lumpy ground. Despite his brief rests, he was making good time.

At the top of a small hill, his vision abruptly cut out. Kanetto tripped over an unseen stone and tumbled down the other side of the hill to the bottom. Just as he stopped, his right foot struck something hard, and he screamed. Pain burst through his right ankle like an exploding grenade.

No, he thought. Please God no, not now.

Desperate to restore his vision, he blinked again. Nothing happened. He wanted to shout for help, but then it would all be over. Besides, he doubted that anyone from the prison could hear him out here.

Goddamn eyes, he thought. Please come back.

Slowly, the vision in his right eye returned. It was fuzzier than before, as if he had suffered from a mild case of myopia. He blinked his left eye repeatedly, trying to will the vision to come back.

It didn’t, though.

Damn bootleg eyes, Kanetto thought.

The vision in his right eye flickered off again, then it came back on again. He gasped and tensed. If the vision in his remaining eye went out for good, he was finished.

He groaned and checked his ankle. Bolts of agony stabbed it when he put it on the ground, but he could still move it. Apparently, it was sprained, not broken. Thank God.

Kanetto pushed himself off the ground, tottered and put most of the pressure on his good foot.

Blind in one eye, with a sprained ankle, Kanetto forced himself to limp along through the dark woods. He moved slowly, trying to keep the pressure off his bad ankle. Unfortunately, the injury slowed him down as surely as a ball and chain clamped to his leg.

He kept walking and checked his watch with his good eye. He still had about fifteen minutes to make it to the rendezvous point.

But as he moved on, he found another problem. Something had gone wrong with the remaining eye, and he could no longer see the dots on the tree.

Shit, Kanetto thought.

He stopped and tried to focus on the nearby trees. After a moment, he briefly caught sight of the blacklight dots on the distant trees. A moment later, though, they winked out.

He inched slowly through the woods, trying to remember where the dots had been. A second later, they reappeared. They were barely visible, but it was still enough to guide him.


Five minutes later, Kanetto reached a larger hill. The surrounding air smelled moist and the sound of running water came from nearby. Despite being half-blind and in pain, Kanetto smiled. Water meant Bridget and freedom.

He limped onward up the hill and reached the top. The cold air assailed his limbs, and he rubbed his shoulders to stay warm.

As he passed a tree, his right eye cut out again.

“Fuck!” Kanetto cursed.

He remained still and groaned.

Not now, God! Kanetto thought. Please.

Unwilling to give up, Kanetto threw himself onto the cold, muddy ground and crawled forward like a wounded animal.

Less than a hundred meters ahead in the dark, his head struck an unseen tree. The pain stunned him, and he fell back down. A painful knot appeared on his head and blood trickled down his forehead. He groaned, put his right hand out, felt the tree and moved around it. To prevent further accidents, he kept one hand ahead of him and felt around. Such a tactic allowed him to avoid two more impacts with trees.

A few seconds after passing the third tree, the vision in his right eye flickered back to life. This time the blurriness had increased even more.

He moaned and blinked repeatedly.

Please don’t go out, Kanetto thought.

He stood.

A loud alarm wailed in the distance.

Kanetto recognized it immediately.

The prison break alarm.

“Shit,” Kanetto said.

He groaned and limped forward along the woods as fast as he could. Each bit of pressure on his bad ankle drove more pain into his leg. Tears stung his eyes, the pain nearly unbearable.

Still, he moved.

A hundred meters onward, he found one more dot near the forest’s edge. Kanetto smiled. The boat would be parked just beyond it and Bridget would take him to freedom.

Kanetto emerged from the forest, staggered onto the muddy shore and froze.

The boat wasn’t there.

“Fuck!” Kanetto shouted.

He blinked and looked around the dark shore. The boat was nowhere to be seen. As he looked, his vision flickered out again for a moment before returning. It grew even blurrier than before.

“Goddamn it, no!” Kanetto said.

A metal buzz sounded in the distance and Kanetto’s heart nearly stopped. He recognized the sound from another one of the warden’s demonstrations.

Rather than sending out guards and dogs, the prison opted to use a more modern solution for escaped prisoner retrieval.

Remote capture drones with net guns, taser rounds, and flares.

The buzz of two drones came from the direction of the prison. Heller had once told Kanetto that the drones were equipped with infrared, heat, and motion sensors.

Out in the open like this, Kanetto would be a sitting duck.

At that moment, Kanetto almost considered giving up.

But he swiftly pushed the thought aside.

The hell with that, Kanetto thought. If I’m going down, I’m going down fighting.

Kanetto limped forward across the muddy ground towards the river’s edge. Near the shoreline, he discovered a large log. It was barely big enough to fit a man.

Kanetto moved towards the log. Only a few meters from it, his vision cut out again. He threw himself on the ground and crawled forward across the mud, algae and slime. When he reached the log, he felt his way inside it. The wood was wet and mushy and stank of rot. Worse still, something was crawling inside it.

Bugs? Maybe worms?

He groaned and wriggled deeper inside the log. As he lay down, his vision returned. Unlike before, though, it flickered on and off every few seconds.

He lay still and held his breath. The lights of a drone appeared in the east. Everything was so blurry that he couldn’t see the actual machine.

As he waited, something fell into his ear. It felt like a bug of some kind. An earwig maybe? The little bastard wiggled its way deeper inside his ear. Kanetto wanted to scream, but the noise would give him away.

Struggling to remain silent, Kanetto shook his head and dug his muddy fingers into his ear. The bug tried to crawl in deeper, but Kanetto grabbed it and smooshed it against the log, then lay still.

The light drew closer to the log. Kanetto bit his lip as more bugs squirmed around him.

Go away, Kanetto thought. Please.

The drone’s humming grew louder and the light scanned the log.

Can it see me? Kanetto thought.

It stopped.

He held his breath.

A beep came from the drone.

Shit, Kanetto thought. It got me.

He waited, expecting the drone’s intercom to order him out.

Instead, the drone’s light moved away.

Kanetto counted to fifteen, then crawled back out of the slimy log and looked up. The drone’s light was going back into the woods, away from him. But it didn’t matter in any case.

He squinted and strained to read his watch. He only had five minutes of vision left.

Furious, he lurched down the shore, the vision in his eye flickering out every few seconds. It was so maddening that he almost preferred being blind.

A good ways down from the log, another light to his left flickered three times.

The boat!

He froze. An engine started and the boat drifted out from under the cover of some trees.

Yes! Kanetto thought.

He waved over to it. The large boat crossed the river towards him. As it drew near, though, the other drone emerged from the treeline to the south. It wasn’t pointed his way, though.

To close the distance, Kanetto waded forward into the river. The icy water stabbed his skin like a million frozen needles.

Near the boat, the vision in his right eye cut out once more. Blind again, Kanetto struggled to swim towards the sound of the boat’s engine. Although he was a good swimmer, it was hard to do while blind.

“Dad!” Bridget called over the engine noise.


He struggled to swim towards her voice, yet the current pushed him farther downriver. He sank under the surface, the water tasting of mud. He burst back up and spat it out, the cold paralyzing him.

“Dad, catch!”

He heard something splash near him.

“I can’t see!” He dropped beneath the surface again, then popped up.

“Swim forward, Dad,” she urged. “And hurry! A drone’s coming!”

“I’m trying!”

The drone noise drew closer. Kanetto strained to swim against the current, the cold sapping what little strength he had left. Desperate to escape, he swam harder and blinked repeatedly, trying to will his vision back again.

The vision returned in his right eye. It was so blurry that he could barely make out the life preserver ring near him. One second after seeing it, his vision cut out again. He gasped and swam towards it. Unable to see, he reached out to where he thought the ring would be. His fingers touched empty water, though.

The drone’s buzzing increased as it closed the distance.

Kanetto grunted and tried again. The second time, his fingers hit the edge of the ring and bounced off.

“A little closer, Dad!” Bridget said. “Hurry!”

Kanetto spat water out and reached one more time. The third time he got his arm around the ring and felt himself pulled up towards the safety of the boat. He bumped into the boat’s hull and groaned. Two pairs of hands grabbed him, pulled him out of the water and dropped him onto the hard deck.

“Stand back!” a male voice said. “I’m using the EMP launcher.”

A loud crack sounded, followed by a distant explosion.

“I got the bastard!” the man said.

“Get us out of here now!” Bridget ordered.

The engine roared to life and Kanetto heard the boat speeding down the river. Slender arms wrapped themselves around him tightly.

“Oh my God, Dad!” Bridget said. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, honey. I’m just fine.” He tightened his grip around his daughter, not wanting to let go as the boat sped on into the night.


Three days later, another boat smuggled them out of the U.S. to the country of Calbastrana on the northeastern coast of South America, bordering both Suriname and Brazil. Though still blind, Kanetto savored the cool salt air on the deck of the boat they were taking.

It certainly beat the stink of a prison cell.

“I brought you a present, Dad,” Bridget said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t give it to you earlier, but we left the country so fast I didn’t have time.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“Oh, I think I did. Here, I’ll help you open it.”

Bridget took Kanetto’s hands and helped him open the box.

Inside, he felt two orbs.

“New eyes?” Kanetto said.

“Yep,” Bridget said. “I had them made especially for you, Dad.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“Yes, I did. Now here, let me help you put them in.”

He felt her place extractor goggles on his face. They removed the useless eyes from his head. After which, Bridget helped him insert the new eyes with a loud, wet crunch.

“These ones shouldn’t fail like the others,” Bridget said.

“Hope not.”

Kanetto blinked and the new eyes came to life.

It was magic hour, the sky glowing a lovely gold as dawn waned. Gulls swooped in circles on warm air currents and Calbastrana lay in the distance. A beautiful land full of lush green trees and other bright foliage. Better still, a land that had no extradition treaty with the U.S. It was an easy place for two wealthy fugitives to disappear for the rest of their lives.

“Do you like your new eyes, Dad?” Bridget asked.

“I love them, honey,” Kanetto said. “Thank you.”

He looked into his daughter’s young, bright face and kissed her on the forehead. Then he wrapped his arms around her and held her close as they savored the sight of freedom. the end

Fredrick Obermeyer lives in Cooperstown, NY. He writes science fiction, horror, crime and fantasy. He has had stories published in “Alternate Realities,” “Planet Relish,” “Fedora,” “The Fifth Di,” “Forgotten Worlds,” and “Electric Spec.”


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