A Babbler from Door-to-Door

By Leon D Furze

sfgenre‘You ever think about how unlikely it is you’re alive? Right now?’

Marissa looked up from her breakfast and raised an eyebrow, her mouth still working on the eggs.

‘It’s not just the probability of that sperm hitting that egg. Think about it. Humans have been around for 300,000 years. You’re alive right now. The probability is…’ His voice trailed off in the face of his wife’s implacable chewing.

 Silence. The clink of cutlery on ceramic.

‘And then there’s the Fermi paradox—’ 

‘Shut up, John.’ 

John put down his knife and fork, lining them up neatly. 

‘Edith will need dropping off early this morning,’ his wife said, placing her cutlery down on her plate.

‘What?’

‘Edith. Dropping off?’ His wife sighed. ‘I’ll do it.’

‘Hmm,’ John nodded, packing his bag for work. MacBook. Notepad. Two Mitsubishi Uni Pins: A 0.2 and a 0.4. He checked the time. 7:15am. He nodded again and headed towards the door.

‘Forgetting something, John?’

He thought for a second. Marissa blew a huff of air through her nostrils.

‘Oh,’ John said, stepping over and putting his arms around his wife. ‘Bye. Have a nice day.’

***

The drive to work: 34-38 minutes. John pulled in at school. Grunted. Someone had taken his usual parking spot. Engine off, key out, open door, lock door, key in pocket, pick up bags, out of car, close door. 

How small was the probability, exactly? Not infinitesimal. He was physics, not maths, but he knew enough about Bayesian probability to know nothing was infinitesimally unlikely. Still... He’d have to look it up.

***

Late to class. Him, not the students. He’d gone down the research rabbit hole.

1 in 102,685,000. Odds of him being here, now, were so slim they outnumbered the atoms in the universe. And Fermi... 

Slim odds I exist. Out there, nothing. No one. If there were they’d be everywhere. But we’re not everywhere, are we? And it’s not even bloody likely that we’re here. So maybe it makes sense that there’s no one—

‘Mr Elliot?’ one of his students had her hand up.

‘Jane?’ 

‘You’re doing that staring thing.’ A few of the class laughed. 

John sighed. ‘Fine. Sorry. Didn’t sleep well.’

1 in 102,685,000

‘Right,’ he said, clapping his hands together. His hands felt strange. Papery and thin, like the sheets of newspaper left by the fire in the living room. Brittle. 

***

Double free. A hundred minutes to get on top of his marking.

Instead, John headed out the back door and carried on walking towards the lake on the edge of town. The gravel crunched beneath his feet. Magpies cackled in the gum trees. The sun was warm, the sky a deep, flawless turquoise. 

The sound of his feet on the gravel grew muted. John looked down, expecting to see something stuck to his feet. His feet were submerged, sunk below the top few inches of the gravel as though the path were made of sand. He shifted a leg and found he could move freely, but when he placed his foot down again it passed through the gravel as if it wasn’t there.

Shit, he thought. Dreaming. He picked up one foot after the other and carried on walking along the path, not knowing what else to do. Every step sank a little further until he pitched forward and landed in the dirt.

He didn’t stop when he hit the ground. 

***

John had experienced a few strange things in his life. First and foremost was the realisation that, in spite of his eccentricities, he had found someone who would love him. It was to Marissa and the kids his thoughts turned now, as he lay in this cool, dark space and wondered if he were dead.

Total darkness, so thick he felt it reaching up into his nostrils and mouth, pushing the air out of his lungs. But if he was struggling to breathe, he wasn’t dead. He slowed his breathing, sucking in mouthfuls of cold, damp air. He was underground, buried alive. The panic rose again. 

***

Phosphene. The word popped into John’s head along with the flickering, dancing light.

‘Another?’ The light’s voice was thin, nasal.

‘Looks like it. Shit.’ Another light flickered closer, a pale, translucent gold. It had something like a head and shoulders, tapering down to a waist. Thin, wisp-like projections that could have been arms. 

‘How’d this one get here?’ 

The second withdrew upwards and out of sight. It reappeared, standing behind John.

‘Fell through the bloody ground.’

‘Shit.’

‘We need to talk to someone about that. Remember the last one?’

‘Adelaide? Fell through the carpark and ended up stuck in the concrete?’

‘Yeh. Always the bloody Australians falling through things. Not like Europeans. At least they have the decency to just, poof.’ The thing clapped its wispy limbs.

‘Um,’ John said, ‘hello?’

‘Yes, hello.’ A vaguely Australian accent. Neutral, newsreaderly. It continued like John didn’t exist. ‘What shall we do with this one? Memory wipe?’

‘Started this morning. Quick turnaround. Check out its search history.’

‘Ha!’ 

‘Where am I?’ John asked.

‘Look,’ said the second one, ignoring him, ‘you know how it goes with these types. They get an idea; they can’t let go. We wipe them; they remember. Wired differently.’

‘Good value though, these ones.’

‘True. Right. Compromise?’

‘Compromise.’

***

John sat across the table from Marissa, staring into his black coffee. He’d woken in his bed with the smell of earth in his nostrils, and a claustrophobic feeling clutching at his chest. He remembered everything. The simulation. The experiment. The great cosmic joke of his existence. 

He’d tried to explain to Marissa, but she’d looked at him with that half-pity half-exasperation expression. He’d gone online, but all he found was quacks and conspiracy theories. He’d find a way to tell someone, to make them see, make them believe.

Out of nowhere a name from his own school days popped into his head. Cassandra

He’d have to look it up.

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About the Author

Leon D Furze

leon d furzeLeon D Furze moved to Australia in 2009 and now lives on a farm in Western Victoria with his wife and three children.

He is an English teacher and school leader and until recently stuck to writing educational textbooks and resources for other teachers.

After a lifetime of reading sf, he decided to give fiction a go, and hopes that it will lead to a long and fruitful career of writing strange, speculative, and surprising things. <leonfurze.com>.

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AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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Please consider joining the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, a prime supporter and promoter of speculative fiction down-under.

<https://asff.org.au>

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 286

A Fish Story
By Harris Tobias

A Girl Among the Stars
By Malena Salazar Maciá - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Aye Robot
By Tim Borella

Butt F**k Nowhere
By Col Hellmuth

Dreaming in the Clouds
By Yuki Fuwa - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Her Laughter, Bright and Sweet
By Myna Chang

Linda and Elton's Lucky Day
By Althea Hughes

Swimming with Daffodiles
By Marc Ruvolo

The Chartist
By Michael T Schaper

The Inverness Soliloquies
By Andrew Dunn

Zippo
By Ed Errington

AntipodeanSF June 2022

ISSUE 285

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

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AntiSF's Narration Team

carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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ed erringtonEd lives with his wife plus a magical assortment of native animals in tropical North Queensland.

His efforts at wallaby wrangling are without parallel — at least in this universe.

He enjoys reading and writing science-fiction stories set within intriguing, yet plausible contexts, and invite readers’ “willing suspension of disbelief.”

He believes stories might also contain an element of humour — however small — to enrich the plot and/or heighten the drama.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <www.solothefirst.wordpress.com> Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

Tim lives with his wife Georgie in beautiful Far North Queensland. For more information, visit his Tim Borella – Author Facebook page.angle mic

geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

SF Quote

Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.

Philip K. Dick

The Contributors

diana grove 200Diana writes speculative fiction about weird people doing weird things.

Her short stories have been published in anthologies by Trembling With Fear, Night Parrot Press, Crystal Lake Publishing and Black Hare Press.

She also writes dark stories for kids, and they have appeared in The Caterpillar and Balloons Lit. Journal.

She lives in Perth with her feline friends, and you can find her on Twitter: <@ImaginaryGrove>.

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leon d furzeLeon D Furze moved to Australia in 2009 and now lives on a farm in Western Victoria with his wife and three children.

He is an English teacher and school leader and until recently stuck to writing educational textbooks and resources for other teachers.

After a lifetime of reading sf, he decided to give fiction a go, and hopes that it will lead to a long and fruitful career of writing strange, speculative, and surprising things. <leonfurze.com>.

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Jon Michael KelleyJon Michael Kelley is an internationally published author and novelist of literary speculative fiction.

His debut novel Seraphim from Evil Jester Press received stellar reviews, and he has been anthologised with such genre luminaries as David Morrell, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, and Thomas F. Monteleone.

His short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, to include the multiple award-winning anthologies Chiral Mad, Chiral Mad 2, and Qualia Nous (2014 Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Best Anthology) by Written Backwards Press.

He has also worked with music industry professionals as a collaborative lyricist, assigning copyrights of numerous authored song portfolios to a prominent New York City producer. Jon currently exhumes his inspiration from a small gold mining town in the mountains of Colorado. 

Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances.

His favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert.

Wes lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist..  "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"

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 lynne lumsden green 200Lynne Lumsden Green lives in Queensland, Australia, though – in reality – she lives inside her head (it’s cosy in there). She writes both fiction and nonfiction.

She has had stories and articles published by Queensland Writing magazine, DailySF, AntipodeanSF, Every Day Fiction, Aurealis magazine, and in over a dozen anthologies of fiction.

She wants her stories to live in her readers’ heads.

You can find her blog at: <https://cogpunksteamscribe.wordpress.com/>.

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col hellmuthCol Hellmuth lives a quiet, uncomplicated life, off-grid in the Daintree rainforest of Far North Queensland.

He has scratched out a living in a variety of different jobs (and locations) over the years; these days he scratches out words in various sequences, and dreams of a day when he might be able to convert some of these ramblings into food.

When he is not writing or enslaved at work he is usually found bumming around his local beach dodging crocs in his kayak or jamming on the blues-harp.

He doesn't have any fancy letters after his name, or a pet cat, but does read a lot.

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Botond's bio is missing at his request...

ed-erringtonEd enjoys creating stories that ideally enable readers to relate to content with believable contexts — realistic relationships - and characters with something to say. All set at some exotic/ or imaginative but relatable point in the future and/or past.

He enjoys unpacking what characters make of the situations they find themselves in — and what they do about it — and why. Ed likes to incorporate the occasional political comment when fictional characters’ experiences overlap with those in the real world.

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Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels: The Greer Agency & A Felony of Birds. He has written dozens of short stories many of which are available on line at <quantummuse.com>. He is the author of many children’s books including At The Robot ZooMoonRivet Saves His Skin and An Alphabet Book of Bugs available in print from CreateSpace and as ebooks for Nook & Kindle. You can find links to his writings here: <harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com>

ps cottier 200PS Cottier is a poet who lives in Canberra, with a particular interest in speculative poetry.

She has been published widely at home and in Canada, England, New Zealand and the USA.

Two of her horror poems were finalists in the Australian Shadows Awards for 2020. Her latest books are Monstrous, which is a volume of speculative poems, and Utterly, which is non-genre.

PS Cottier is the Poetry Editor at The Canberra Times and blogs at <https://pscottier.com>

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Where you see strange dreams, cockatoos and other nonsensical nostrums congregate, there’s a good chance you’ll also come across our author.

By day he’s all manner of mundane things: a board member, business association manager, policy adviser, researcher and scholar - in Canberra.

At night he lets those wild ideas of his run, well, wild.

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kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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