Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.
Editor

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Fiction

Plague Clone Blues
by Mark Anthony Ayling

Raise the Black Flag
by Harold R. Thompson

If You’re Listening, We’re Going to Try Something
by Sean Monaghan

Coyote Tears
by Bob Sojka

Apprentice’s Test
by Wayland Smith

Suite 15
by Andrew James Woodyard

Genborn
by R.K. Nickel

Student Database Notes
by Tim McDaniel

Shorter Stories

Fly Robin Fly
by C.E. Gee

What Do You Think?
by John Hegenberger

Assimilation
by K.S. Dent

Articles

Tesla’s Death Ray Wall
by Eric M. Jones

Cats Abound in Science Fiction
by Erin Lale


Cover

Editorial

Comic Strips

Reviews

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What Do You Think?

By John Hegenberger

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING and was again convinced I heard someone speaking. But there was no one there.

I checked to see if the alarm clock radio had switched on during the night, but it was turned off. I live alone. Maybe someone was out on the front porch: the mailman or a salesman. Maybe a couple of kids home from school on a snow day.

I got up from bed, stretched, shuffled over to the toilet, still hearing the faint mouse-like voice as it complained about a battery being dead. “I’m going to have to beg Scott for a boost or a ride to the auto parts store. Damned piece of junk!”

I searched the room, a cold sweat building on the back of my neck. The TV and computer were off. The smartphone had been shut down all night. I switched it on and saw that none of the apps were operating with audio, so they couldn’t have been the source of the sounds I’d clearly heard.

This was the third time in the last week when I’d awoken to random bits of tiny conversation. At first, I’d thought I’d imagined it or that it was the faint and final moments of a dream. But it was happening far too often now. And I discovered with mild alarm that there was a possibility that I was going a little crazy.

I sat on the edge of the bed and concentrated on hearing more. I hummed to try and get my ears started. There was a slight ringing which went away when I yawned, but no new sentences or phrases came to mind.

The cat walked in and mewed up at me. I shrugged and went downstairs to feed him. I heard the garbage collector’s grinding truck coming nearer the house from down the street. I’d forgotten to set out the trash the night before. I hopped into trousers and sneakers and dashed out the backdoor into the bright winter sunshine, to tug and haul the big green receptacle to the edge of the road before the trash guys got to my curb.

I had the plastic-wheeled monster in place just as the voice of my neighbor caused me to turn around. “Morning, Scotty. Say, can you give me a hand? My car won’t start.”

Claude Fetter approached across the slushy lawn. He waved a fat hand back to where a blue Civic sat inside his open garage.

I winced in the sunshine, running my fingers along the side of my head and through my thinning hair. “Battery dead?”

He smiled and stopped waking toward me. “Yeah. How’d you guess?”

The grinding, thumping sounds of the trash truck bustled near us. My stomach growled and I realized I hadn’t had any coffee yet. “Just lucky.”

***

While stopped at a red light that afternoon on my way to the grocery, I was certain I could hear the driver in the next lane complain how his doctor had broken their appointment, again.

I glanced over. The guy’s car window was completely rolled up. So was mine. He wasn’t on the phone that I could tell. Maybe it was his car radio speaking. The light changed and he made a left at the intersection where I went straight. Maybe I was receiving signals from the fillings in my teeth. Maybe I was the one who needed a doctor’s appointment.

***

Standing in line at the checkout counter, I could swear that the kid bagging my groceries said something extremely rude about the ass of the woman in the next row. He was looking askance at her, but his lips weren’t moving. Besides, how could I have heard his words when no one else seemed to?

“Mysterious and creepy,” I muttered.

The cash-register lady said, “What’d you say, hon?”

Embarrassment flooded up my neck and cheeks. “That’s what I … Sorry.”

“No problem, hon.”

I thought I distinctly heard her add, “Guy’s a creep.”

She smiled. “Did you find everything all right?”

I fished out my wallet. “Uh, yeah.”

“Fifty-seven thirty-nine.”

I swiped my credit card, gathered up the plastic bags and walked away without another word.

***

All right. This was becoming serious and damn-right frightening.

I could feel my heart beating quicker and harder than normal. I willed it to relax. It was giving me a headache. I sat in the car, taking deep breaths.

How do I get out of this? I don’t want it. I caught my left foot tapping incessantly on the floorboards and willed it to stop.

I was having a panic attack. It felt like my chest was constricted by broad leather straps. I scratched my nails against the grain of my corduroy pant legs.

I couldn’t think of anyone to go and talk to about this. I was all alone with a private affliction that I didn’t want. I thought I heard someone outside my car talking. Or was it somebody’s thoughts seeping into my car and mind? I pressed my palms against my ears. The voice seemed muffled a bit, but I could still hear: “How the hell can I tell her that it’s over between us and that her sister is the one I want?”

Stupidly, I shouted back, “Shut up! Just stop!”

***

Of course, no one was there to answer. So, am I reading other people’s thoughts?

Looks that way. But not on purpose or on cue. I can’t control it. And it’s only one person at a time. And they have to be close by. And I can’t force it by concentration. Rather, it comes when I’m relaxed, like in that meditative state where you “clear your mind.”

If I get excited or upset, it never happens. Why does it happen at all? Why haven’t I heard anything about it happening to other people? Why now? Why me?

It’s mind reading, right? What’s the best thing I can do with this power to read minds? Win at poker? Become a human lie detector? Perform magic acts on television?

None of that seems right. Maybe I should just relax and let it happen organically. Maybe it’ll grow over time. Or maybe it’ll fade away like a case of the flu.

***

A burst of static.

“Can you hear me now?”

What the hell?

“Good. We always have trouble tuning in to alien brains. Sometimes our transmitters confuse our thoughts with other alien thoughts. Signal shift. We are contacting you from an advance scout ship in orbit around the planet you call Venus. Do not bother to ask what planet we are from. You would not recognize it. Our intel has it that you are a high official with your species? If we got that wrong, too, not to worry. In any case, could you take us to your leader?” END

John Hegenberger is the author of the Stan Wade LAPI series from Black Opal Books. His stories have appeared in “Amazing,” “Galaxy,” “Darkhouse Books,” and Ace anthologies. He is also the author of the “Collector’s Guide to Comic Books.”

 

 

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