Alien Artifacts

By Harris Tobias

sfgenre“Did you see that?” Arnold asked. 

Ida, busy with the map, was trying to find out where in the hell they were. Somewhere in northern Arizona, that much at least was certain. Lost on a road that stubbornly defied identifying itself.

“See what, dear?” she said absently.

“That sign we just passed.”

“No. I was busy trying to find us on the map. Did you see a road sign?”

“No. There was a sign outside that last cabin we passed.” Arnold was already slowing down and looking for a place to turn around. “I’m going back. At the very least we can ask them directions.” Arnold found a logging road and managed to make a three-point turn without getting them stuck in a ditch. 

Ida folded the useless map and asked, “What did the sign say?”

“Here it comes, read it for yourself.” The hand lettered sign sat beside the weedy drive. It read “Alien Artifacts” in six-inch high letters. That’s all it said. Two words that held the promise of great wonder and mystery. How could anyone pass up a sign like that?

“Oh come on, Arnold. It has to be some kind of joke.”

“Who puts up a joke sign in the middle of nowhere? Even if it is a joke, I bet the guy knows where we are and can help us get back to the Interstate.”

Ida saw the logic in this argument. They had been lost all day, one wrong turn leading to another. Deeper and deeper into a maze of back roads. That sign was the first bit of civilisation they’d seen in more than an hour.

The driveway was little more than two streaks of bare earth leading into the scrub. They bumped and scraped along for about a mile until a house and barn appeared before them. Another hand-lettered sign said “Parking”. There were no other cars. The house was dilapidated and weather-beaten to a uniform dull grey. The barn was in the same depressed condition. A large faded sign over the barn indicated the entrance to the exhibit. 

“Come on, Ida, I think it’s open.”

“I don’t like the looks of this place, Arnold, I think we ought to leave.”

“Oh come on, Ida, don’t be a stick in the mud. This could be fun”

“I thought you said we would get directions.”

“We will, honey, just as soon as we find somebody to ask.”

Ida shook her head. It was useless arguing with Arnold when his mind was made up. Indeed, Arnold was already out of the car and walking up to the barn. He turned and motioned Ida to follow. Afraid of being left alone, she reluctantly joined him on the path.

Arnold peeked inside the dim barn. There was a small collection box by the door that said admission was free but donations were gratefully accepted. Arnold stuffed a ten-dollar bill in the slot and he and Ida entered the barn. As soon as they cleared the threshold, overhead lights blinked a few times then stayed on.

The first exhibit was a poster sized aerial photograph of an empty field. The sign said that the field was the crash site of an extraterrestrial spacecraft that ploughed to the earth and burned on August 23rd 1956 on the old Henderson Farm. There was a copy of a faded newspaper article showing an eager young Henderson shaking hands with an Air Force General. The headline read, “Military Examines Mystery Object.” The caption under the photo said, “Air Force General William C. Bankhurst congratulates Phoebe, Arizona, resident, Hiram Henderson on his amazing find.”

“I guess we’re in Phoebe, Arizona,” said Arnold. “See, this stop’s already paying off.”

“Great, can we go now?” Ida didn’t like the feel of the place.

“A few more minutes. Let's look at the wreckage.”

The barn was divided into aisles with tables filled with charred hunks of twisted metal, which signs proclaimed were pieces of the craft’s fuselage. The salvaged pieces looked for all the world like rusted car parts and melted Tupperware containers. One table contained a jumble of bits and pieces the sign said were the remains of the cockpit, the highlight of which was a half melted computer keyboard with weird symbols in place of the familiar alphabet. A sign claimed that the keyboard was proof of the alien’s advanced technology as there were no Earthly computers in 1956.

“Pretty hokey,” Arnold stage-whispered to Ida.

“It all looks so fake,” Ida whispered back.

The next table was filled with what the sign claimed was “The Crew’s Personal Effects” the centrepiece of which was a spacesuit which looked very much like a ratty old wetsuit and scuba tanks paired up with a WWII army surplus gas mask. When Arnold saw it, he burst out laughing. The sign said that the tanks contained an unbreathable mixture of methane and helium and was proof that the aliens did indeed come from another world. Also on the table was an item that looked like a television remote painted green and funny symbols applied to the keys. A few dented and burnt tuna-fish cans identified as rations concluded the exhibit.

The last object before the exit was a large glass cylinder labelled “Alien Transporter Booth, Take your picture inside.”

“That would make a perfect souvenir. Ida, you have the camera?” Arnold opened the door to the enclosure and stepped inside. Ida fished around in her bag for the digital camera she always carried. When she looked up to snap the photo, Arnold was gone. The air smelled faintly of ozone and the cylinder door was closed.

“Arnold, this is not funny,” Ida looked under the tables expecting to see him hiding there. When he didn’t show up, she began to panic. “Arnold. Arnold.” She called and ran from the barn. She ran to the house and pounded on the front door. It dawned on her how silent and alone they had been the whole time never seeing another person. She pounded on the door with more urgency. No one answered so she tried the knob. To her surprise, the door opened upon a rather conventional looking living room with old-fashioned furniture on a faded oriental rug.

“Hello. Is anyone home?” Ida stepped into the room. “Anyone? I need help.” She heard a sound at the back of the house where she expected the kitchen was. “Hello? Can someone help me?” She didn’t notice the door had closed behind her. The last thing she did notice was several tall figures wearing what looked like ratty old wetsuits topped with World War Two era gas masks. As they advanced on her she fainted.

Several space-suited aliens carried Ida upstairs and laid her on a gurney where she was probed and examined with a series of curious instruments. When they were finished with Ida, they did similar things to Arnold. 

Some hours later, Arnold and Ida came to their senses. They were back in their car at a rest stop fifty miles North of Phoebe. Both had only vague memories of what happened and disturbing dreams for years after but at least they knew where they were.

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About the Author

Harris Tobias

harris tobiasHarris 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>. 

Harris is also 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>

In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 291

Christmas in the Modern World
By William Kitcher

COVID's Conclusion
By Marty Nemko

First Contact of the Third Kind
By Anthony Woolley

Forty-Nine Seconds
By Michael Cheyne

Hermit People of Ermin 4
By Bob Brussack

Hip Gnomes
By PS Cottier

How to Birth A Billionaire
By Elizabeth Broadbent

The First Thanksgiving
By Harris Tobias

Tramp
By Brian Biswas

Up the Ante
By Rhiannonn Stevens

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

<https://asff.org.au>

AntipodeanSF November 2022

ISSUE 290

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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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alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <alistairlloyd.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

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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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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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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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 

The Contributors

se square rounded corners smallJason Bentsman's writings tend to defamiliarise the familiar, including urgent problems facing society, with a metaphysical undercurrent.

He authored the poetic environmental book The Orgastic Future (“A 21st century HOWL,” A.S., New Yorker & Vanity Fair). Writings in The American Bystander, The Blue Nib, FLANEUR, Montreal Writes, Paris Lit Up, Dreich, The Weekly Humorist, and other publications worldwide.

He's also an occasional humorist, and takes fine art photos. His favorite color is: prism. More info: www.linktr.ee/Jason_Bentsman

Joseph Sullivan is a 21-year-old writer and filmmaker from Melbourne, Australia, currently in his third year of university studying for his bachelor's degree in film and television.

He is an avid reader and writer of speculative fiction, and you can find his work at <https://josephsullivanwriter.blogspot.com/>.

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alexy dumenigoAlexy Dumenigo is a Cuban writer.

His debut story collection, Izokumi, won the 2019 Premio Calendario de Ciencia Ficción.

maks sipowicz 200Maks Sipowicz is a writer living and working in Naarm (Melbourne).

His work has previously appeared in Overland, Sydney Review of Books, Meanjin, and elsewhere.

His website is <https://philosophyafterdark.com>.

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elizabeth broadbent 200During her MFA in fiction, Elizabeth Broadbent was a top-ten finalist in William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award's novel-in-progress category; in the same year, her novella placed as a semifinalist.

After having children, she turned to nonfiction; her essays have appeared The Washington Post, Insider, and Time; a six-year staff writer for Scary Mommy, the largest parenting site on the web, Broadbent wrote about everything from chestfeeding to true crime. 

Her speculative prose poetry has appeared in Bewildering Stories and Down in the Dirt

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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chris karageorge 200Chris Karageorge is a lover, brother, son, neighbour and a keen observer of all things in sight. 

He reads, writes and cooks in his spare time and dreams of coffee darker than a moonless night. 

He is from Melbourne, Victoria and can be found walking his pug Monty during the weekends.

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Umiyuri Katsuyama 200Umiyuri Katsuyama is a multiple-award-winning writer of fantasy and horror, often based on Asian folklore motifs.

A native of Iwate in the far north of Japan, she later moved to Tokyo and studied at Seisen University.

In 2011, she won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award with her novel Sazanami no kuni.

Her most recent novel, Chuushi, ayashii nabe to tabi wo suru, was published in 2018.

In 2022, her translation of S. Qiouyi Lu's short story "Mother Tongues" was a finalist for the Seiun Award. She is currently working on a novel about a female cook in Jiangnan during the Qin Dynasty.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous horror anthologies in Japan.

Bryan Keon Cohen 200Bryan is a writer, activist and retired barrister based in Melbourne, Australia.

He has published numerous legal articles, and the books: A Mabo Memoir (2013) and The Apocrypha (2022).

Bryan’s insightful and engaging short stories have been published in Australiain Woorilla (2010), Idiom (2019), StylusLit (2019), Antipodean Sci Fi (2020), and in the UK, Bandit Fiction (2018).

See further at <www.bryankeoncohen.com>.

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Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

harris tobiasHarris 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>. 

Harris is also 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 V8, co-wriiten with Sandra Renew, (Ginninderra Press) which looks at cars and other vehicles, and Tuesday’s Child is Full (In Case of Emergency Press) which is made up of poems first published at her blog. (These two collections are non-genre.) 

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

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