Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.
Editor

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Fiction

Running Tangent
by Dale Ivan Smith
and K.C. Ball

Food, Glorious Food
by Joey To

Shepherding
by Dave Creek

Froggers
by Siobhan Gallagher

An Island in Your Arms
by James Patrick Riser

Rim’s End
by John Walters

Technicality
by Holly Schofield

Ooze Love
by Andrew James Woodyard

Shorter Stories

Deus Ex Machina
by Erin Lale

It’s, Like, So Boring at the End of the World
by Amy Sisson

Dreamboat
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Articles

Making Sense of it All
by Libby McGugan

Is There Life in Space?
by Peter Cawdron


Cover

Editorial

Comic Strips

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Dreamboat

By Robin Wyatt Dunn

IT’S A BRITTLE FEELING THAT comes to me in the morning, when I’ve awoken.

There’s no changing the shapes of things, only their outlines, the parts I need to see, to map them.

Outside the window by my crèche (where I’m reborn every five years around a new star) the planet is sucking in debris, that is, it looks like a planet, and perhaps once was, but now it’s an eating machine.

I operate on a different gravity and so need not fear I will be sucked into its well. But I am unsettled, all the same. Things have been getting greedier and greedier. Not at all like Mom said this trip would be.

Only the dreamers are let on board.

While once the interstellar exploration SOP was rugged whitebread men with nerves of steel, that changed once mission objectives involved times away from Earth greater than one thousand days, with over fifty light years travelled ... things get weird, you know.

You have to hang with the times. Smile into the alien faces. Grok the hungry planets.

I get that, it’s exciting, it’s a nightmare, it’s what I signed up for, all this lonely beauty (and it is beautiful, the skies on fire, the wars, the abutments of clay next to the alien tarps, living clay, a species uncategorized on our world, transmitting in frequencies I can only barely detect; last time I was on Maereon World, but no, it’s not that, it’s ...) this feeling.

This feeling I have now that something went astray.

In a dream, a regular dream, you wake up. You’re back in the real world.

On a trip like mine, you’re supposed to “half wake up”―process the aborted stimuli of the multifaceted awarenesses eager to make of you a puppet out there in the Deep (and there are a lot of them), and then just settle in for a long slow retirement when (and if) you get back to Homeworld. I’ve met a lot of very wise retirees ... the look in their eyes is fascinating.

As in a lucid dream, the feeling I have now is that someone is messing with things, only it isn’t me ...

On last waking, it was a dead alien. Floating in orbit around this asteroid. Only when I turned on the cameras, and my own digital eyes, to observe it and paint some likenesses (paintings can be more accurate, you know, especially in the Deep), it moved.

It was both dead and alive, depending on what part of it I looked at. Some annoying little Schrödinger animal.

And you could say (and I did) that it was just another weirdo sighting to chalk up for the catalog, take it in, make a record, go to sleep (and I did), but something had begun not to feel quite right ...

I started to ask myself: why did I go on this mission? Do I even remember?

And then the (literal, and very loud) voice in my head:

OF COURSE YOU REMEMBER, ROBIN. THESE REGIONS OF SPACE HOLD GREAT INTEREST FOR HUMANITY. THAT IS YOUR SPECIES.

Humanity, that’s right. I play for Team Humanity, only ...

I jerk my body out of the crèche.

I notice the easel has already been erected and I’ve a half-completed sketch of Mr. Hungry Planet right there in black, white, and red, which isn’t right at all because every time I wake up I do a painting and eat a meal and then go back to sleep, because if I leave a painting halfway finished, they have a way of being finished by something else, (who’s not maybe on the same team), but the real problem is:

The spaceship isn’t even pressurized any more.

The airlock is open. My lunch is spinning in the air (mashed potatoes and gravy). I’m in an actual spacesuit. I haven’t been in one of those since basic training (when did I put it on?)

Idly I squeeze a globlet of potato between my fingers and stare out into the infinite darkness.

Somehow I remember this.

I’m sorry. I realize that you on Earth have probably been reading a lot of propaganda, and that if you read this at all (and it’s actually uncensored) that you probably just figure I’m nuts. I know you’re probably still used to stories of brave astronauts nuking cockroach-shaped aliens into the Stone Age and stuff.

You got to remember: we’re in a feedback loop. What we do at launch comes back to haunt us in mission, so when I have a dream the night before launch I write it down, okay, so I’ll remember it, and now that I remember it, it’s here, with the airlock open, and my food floating in the microgravity.

Only there wasn’t any big hungry planet in my dream.

That’s when the alien comes barreling through the airlock and swallows me whole.

***

Believe it or not, we have procedures for that. In theory, I can survive for four solar years in this suit, if my metabolism is in tip-top shape (i.e., real slow).

But that’s only if you get one of those friendly “it just wants to gobble you up in order to communicate” kind of alien, and I get the distinct feeling this particular beastie rather has digestion on its mind ...

I squeeze my elbows against my body inside the gut of this thing and manage to press the buttons secured above my hip bones: spikes emerge from my suit, super sharp, and I smile as the thing around me makes this choking movement, its flesh trembling, and my brain is scraggling with pain, this psychic upheaval, but then the thing pukes me out, scraps of alien flesh sticking to my suit-spikes, and the thing is churning back out the airlock, looking at me like I’m a bad piece of sushi.

In dreams, sometimes, you can tell when the bad thing is coming. What I’m getting at is: that time is right now.

I run to the airlock and cycle it closed, and jam my body into the decontaminator, ionizing the alien tissue and blasting it to ash. I shuck and jive in zero-g back into my crèche, watching below as something very much larger emerges from the Mars-sized mouth in the planet below, a black-colored four-dimensional amoeba, trembling in the light ...

The crèche injects my drugs and I sigh and close my eyes.

And I start to count aliens, I mean sheep, I count the fluffy sheep down to eternity:

One fluffy sheep, two fluffy sheep ...

And I’m dreaming.

***

But what about when you can’t wake up?

And what about when the nightmare just goes on and on ...?

We don’t know enough, I know that.

We don’t know enough.

But what I’m starting to realize (or recall) is how I’ve got to turn this ship around before it’s too late, pilot it from inside the dream.

Each image, each sound, each feeling, is like this code, and all I have to do is convince myself this is all really happening, and the ship’s engines will get the message, back over the dimensional-dream boundary, and nudge my little bubble of humanity back across the meniscus dividing Bad Alien Logic from the merely Offensive But Comprehensible Human, back home ... END

Robin Wyatt Dunn is a writer, novelist, and filmmaker. His short stories have appeared in “Third Flatiron,” “Voluted Tales,” and dozens of other publications. He is a member of the SFWA. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in 12-MAR-2015.

 

4-2015

 

         

 

 

         

 

 

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