Blue Moon

By Harris Tobias

sfgenreThe marquee outside the hotel reads “Lucy and the Jazztones”. I’m Lucy. I’m a lounge singer, or rather I was a lounge singer. I’m an old lady now, sick, dying. But when I was younger, I sang at one of the new temporal hotels. One of the fancy ones right on the strip. Time travellers dropped in and stayed a while until they faded back to their own time. It was a big business visiting the past, still is from what I hear.

They’re an interesting lot these travellers from our future, filled with stories about their eras. The further in the future they’re from, the shorter their stay in our present. That has something to do with the physics of time travel. I don’t pretend to understand any of it. All I know is that I sang jazz numbers five nights a week in the hotel lounge. It was a regular gig and it paid well. There was a steady stream of temps — that’s what we called our temporal visitors — and locals drinking and generally behaving themselves. Some of the patrons actually listened to my numbers. I could tell, because I got a smattering of applause after every song.

One night a handsome temp about my age came up to the piano, stuffed a hundred dollar bill in the tip jar and asked me to sing Blue Moon for him. It’s an old jazz standby so I smiled and said, “Sure thing, honey. For a hundred dollars I’d sing Old Mac Donald Had a Farm all night long”. 

So I sang the song for the guy and judging from the applause I didn’t do too bad a job. Anyway, after the set I was sitting at the bar taking a break when the handsome temp came over and offered to buy me a drink. I got my drinks comped by the house but I didn’t tell him that. He was so good looking and sweet, I let him feel like he was doing me a favour. 

“Sure, why not?” I said, “It’s your nickel. What’s on your mind?”

“Can’t a guy buy a lady a drink without an ulterior motive?” he asked.

“In my experience with men there’s always an ulterior motive,” I told him, taking a sip of my drink. “Maybe it’s different where you come from or should I say when you come from. When is that anyway?”

“About thirty-three years from now,” he said. “The name’s Rob by the way, Rob Burns”

“Like the poet?” I asked. 

He smiled and lifted his drink, “Not only beautiful but intelligent too.” He looked deep into my eyes, and I felt a shiver go down my spine.

“So, Mr. Burns,” I said, “how are you enjoying our quaint present?”

“It’s much as I expected. It was only a generation ago so it’s not all that different from my time. It’s good to see you though. In my time, you’re quite a bit older.”

“Well, I hope I aged well. It’s good to know I’ll still be around thirty years from now. Hey, I thought it was against the rules for temps to talk about specifics. You don’t want to screw things up for yourself.”

This was a big danger for time travellers. If they did anything weird or talked too much about their time, they risked altering the timeline and not being able to return to it. Do anything to screw up the sequence of cause and effect that leads to your personal future and you risk not being able to return to it at all. Temps can play at being tourists, hence the temporal hotels, but if they interact too strongly with our present, say by robbing a bank or murdering their parents or trying to make a killing in the stock market — anything like that — then a new future is created that simply doesn’t include the original version of themselves.

Some other future is created, and the one they came from ceases to exist. Don’t ask me what happens to them. It’s physics and it’s complicated, but it has the effect of keeping the temps pretty docile. The final result is temps normally stick close to the hotels and don’t wander too far afield. It’s a strange thing, but nature doesn’t tolerate any paradoxes. Screw around with the past and you change your present. The past is fixed, the future is fluid. Something like that, anyway.

“Don’t worry,” Rob said, “We’re going to meet pretty soon anyway.”

“Oh yeah, how?”

“I can’t tell you,” he said, giving me the sexiest smile.

“Well, let’s see. You’re about my age...what, 32, 33? So if we’re to meet in a few months, you’ll be two or three years old? A little young for me don’t you think?” 

Rob just smiled that smile of his and sipped his drink.

Now don’t think for a minute I wasn’t curious because I was. Everyone wants to know their future and here I was face to face with a guy who knew mine. It was rare to meet a temp who knew you personally. Temps avoid that kind of contact. The temptation to tell all is too great and too dangerous. If he warned me not to do something or to do something different, it would change his time line and put him in danger. So he played it cool and didn’t say any more, and I didn’t push him. Break time was over, and I had to get back to work.

There’s a mathematical ratio between how far in the future a temp’s present was and how long he or she could stay in ours. The further the distance between our now and theirs, the shorter the visit. Rob’s thirty year distance gave him about a two day window before his chronons broke down and returned him to his own time, and, providing he hadn’t messed up his future, he’d be back exactly where and when he started.

Another thing that wasn’t lost on me was that time travel was expensive. It was a plaything of the rich. There wasn’t all that much to be learned visiting the recent past so scientists pretty much gave up on the technology. It became a status symbol for people with money to spend on expensive vacations. A weekend in Las Vegas thirty years before your time was considered a thrill. I had to assume that Rob had lots of money in his own time. I was happy for him. Money was something I never had.

I sang another set and, on my break, there was Rob sitting at the bar handing me a drink. I clicked his glass and said, “So we’re going to get to know each other pretty soon?”

“Yep, we are.”

“Can you tell me how?”

“Why take the fun out of it? It’s going to happen.”

“It’s kind of creepy knowing the future.”

“Dangerous too.” He took my hand when he said this. Was this temp coming on to me? It wouldn’t be the first time. Trans-temporal sex was nothing new. A lot of temps came here just for that reason. I’d had a couple of one-nighters myself over the years. I have to admit it was a turn on having sex with someone who technically wasn’t even born yet.

I have to confess that for me, that’s all it took. I was definitely attracted to the guy. When my show was over I found myself in his room and in his bed. I can’t speak for him, but I thought the sex was great. Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I’d have never done it. But I didn’t and we did.

Afterwards, we were lying in bed making small talk. I was tempted to probe for more details but didn’t want to put him in danger, so we talked about art and music, poetry and books. It turned out we had similar tastes in a lot of things. That next day we played tourist. I took him around the city. We went to the new art museum and lunched at a fancy French restaurant. Rob was charming and intelligent. I felt myself falling for him in a big way. Back at the hotel we made love again. I wanted to call in sick but Rob thought it would be too big a change in my normal routine.

So I did my show that night. Rob was there and I sang Blue Moon for him. Rob stayed the whole time and I felt like I sang for him alone. That night was our last. Already Rob was starting to fade, his chronons returning to his own time. I tried to hold on to him but he literally slipped through my fingers and disappeared. His departure left me depressed for weeks. There was nothing I could do. Life went on. There was no way to contact him, I just had to get on with my life and put him behind me. So that’s what I did.

Rob had said we were going to meet in a few months. I was curious to see how that would happen. I went back to my gig at the hotel only now I sang Blue Moon every night. It became my trademark. Eventually Rob’s memory faded and I met a nice guy, a saxophone player who recently joined the band. A real nice guy and a terrific musician. He reminded me of Rob in many ways. When he told me his name was Ted Burns, I got goosebumps all over. Talk about meant to be, well that’s how that felt and, after I got to know him better, he told me he had a two year old son from his first marriage named Robby. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Ted was a really nice guy but he had one big flaw — he was addicted to gambling. He’d bet on anything, but he loved horse racing best. He spent and lost all of his money at the track. I knew that if we married, he would lose all of my money as well, but after meeting little Robert Burns for the first time I knew what I had to do. We were married three weeks later.

Now Rob Burns was in my life again, only this time as my stepson. 

My marriage to Ted was rocky. I hated his gambling habit and he seemed powerless to change his behaviour. We were always broke despite the fact that we both had jobs. We could have lived comfortably on our two salaries if it hadn’t been for Ted’s gambling. Las Vegas isn’t the best place to be if you’re trying to stop gambling.

A few years into the marriage, my career took a turn for the better. I got discovered, sort of, and signed a contract to make a couple of recordings. My music received good reviews and I started getting offers to sing at bigger venues. For the first time in my life, I was making money. Ted did his best to lose it as fast as I earned it. We fought about it constantly but he couldn’t stop. I finally gave him an ultimatum — either get help or I was taking Robby and leaving. That finally had the desired effect on Ted. He started going to counselling and attending weekly meetings of Gambler’s Anonymous. 

Things were better for a few years. It looked like Ted had turned the corner. We were almost happy. I was about to make my television debut when Ted fell off the wagon. He cleaned out our bank account and blew it all at the track including a wild bet on a long shot called — you guessed it — Blue Moon. I’d like to say that the horse came in at ten to one and we lived happily ever after but that’s not how it happened. The horse lost and so did I. We broke up. I got custody of Rob who by this time was a bright and happy ten year old.

I worked hard and saved every dime I could for Rob’s future. A few years after the divorce, I got word that Ted had been shot dead by mobsters for not paying his debts. I hadn’t seen much of him since our divorce so you can imagine my surprise when I received a check in the mail for two hundred thousand dollars. Ted had taken out a life insurance policy and named Robby and me as beneficiaries. I invested Rob’s half and used mine to buy my own nightclub. I named it The Blue Moon Lounge. It was an instant success.

The years flew by. Rob went to good schools and grew up smart as well as handsome. He took over our investments and soon turned my modest fortune into a sizable one. Funny how things work out.

I’m sixty-four now and dying of cancer. 

Rob is heartbroken. He tells me he’s going to spend some of his money to see me in my prime. He wants to hear me sing Blue Moon again one last time. 

I blush crimson at the memory. I know it’s wrong but I can’t say I wished it didn’t happen. How many mothers can say they loved their sons before they ever met them? It’s not like I did anything wrong.

Time travel, it’s filled with paradoxes.

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About the Author

Harris Tobias

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>

In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 289

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By James R. Coffey

Dusk Patrol
By Kevin J. Phyland

Martian Food
By Robbie Sheerin

Sociology 101, Lesson Six
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

Superman
By Elizabeth Broadbent

The Eternity Library
By Chris Gladstone

The Sparrow Maker
By Tee Linden

Three Eight Two (Part Two)
By Andrew Dunn

Turning on the Light
By John Bohr

What I have to say about the supersize oceans of the exoplanet C59034
By Ranju Mamachan

Winter's Sky
By Callan J Mulligan

Scifaiku
By PS Cottier

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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AntipodeanSF September 2022

ISSUE 288

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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

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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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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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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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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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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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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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

rodney sykes 200Rodney grew up in country South Australia and later in Adelaide but now lives and works in Melbourne.

He works principally as an IT consultant and dabbles in creative writing in his spare time.

He enjoys writing poetry as well flash fiction and often reads his work at the Melbourne Writers Group meetings.

Rodney is currently unpublished but hopes to change that in the near future.

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jared bernard 200Jared Bernard’s fiction has appeared in Morpheus Tales, and his non-fiction has appeared in The Conversation, Natural History, History Today, and American Forests among others. As a PhD candidate studying insects, he has also published in scientific journals.

Jared’s debut literary/speculative fiction novel, Killing Juggernaut <https://www.killingjuggernaut.com>, predicts a dire future in which the fates of an ecologist, a teenager, and an astronomer are linked by humanity’s last-ditch effort to save itself from environmental devastation.

“Tantalise” is a mini companion story to Killing Juggernaut.

fulvio gatti 200Fulvio Gatti is an Italian speculative fiction writer been writing and publishing in his native tongue for 25 years.

He has been writing in English for the global market since 2018, and his stories can be found in pro magazines, like Galaxy’s Edge, magazines and anthologies published in US, UK, Italy, and Australia.

He’s been a student of Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s Superstars Writing Seminars and he is part of David Farland’s Apex Writing Group. He’s also been a panelist at Worlcon/Discon III, among other international events.

He lives with his wife on the wine hills of the Northwestern Italy, where he works as a local reporter and event organizer.

Website: <https://www.fulviogatti.it>

chuck mckenzie 200Chuck McKenzie was born in 1970, and still spends much of his time there.

He also runs the YouTube channel 'A Touch of the Terrors', where — as 'Uncle Charles' — he performs readings of his favourite horror tales in a manner that makes most ham actors look like Gielgud.

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michael j leach 200Michael J. Leach <@m_jleach> is a writer and academic who lives in Bendigo on unceded Dja Dja Wurrung Country.

Michael enjoys writing about science. His science poems reside in Meniscus, Rabbit, Cordite, Consilience, Science Write Now, the 2021 Hippocrates Prize Anthology (The Hippocrates Press, 2021), and elsewhere.

He has published a sci-fi short story in Painted Words 2017 (Bendigo TAFE, 2017) and penned two science-themed plays performed by Bendigo Theatre Company.

Michael’s poetry collections include Chronicity (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020) and Natural Philosophies (Recent Work Press, forthcoming in November 2022).

You can read more about Michael’s work on his website: <https://mleach11.wixsite.com/writing>

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greg foyster 200Greg Foyster is a writer, illustrator and author of the memoir Changing Gears, currently living on Wadawurrung country at Geelong.

His stories and cartoons have appeared in The Age, The Saturday Paper, ABC, Meanjin, Eureka Street and others.

His fiction has appeared in Overland, The Big Issue, Aurealis and AntipodeanSF.

Website: <www.gregfoyster.com>

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andrew dunn 200Andrew writes science-fiction and fantasy from the state of Maryland on the eastern coast of the United States, often drawing ideas from jogs through forest trails at sunrise or a tasty beer at sunset. 

Andrew writes each story with the goal of giving readers something they will enjoy, without relying on the typical, predictable, or cliche'. His work has previously appeared in AntipodeanSF, 365 Tomorrows, and soon Daily Science Fiction

When Andrew isn't writing chances are he's playing guitar or bass, exploring abandoned places, or spending quality time with a bulldog. Andrew hopes you enjoy this story, and he will continue to try and write stories that you'll love to read! 

salvatore difalco 200Salvatore Difalco is the author of two story collections, Black Rabbit (Anvil) and The Mountie At Niagara Falls (Anvil).

He currently lives in Toronto Canada.

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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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kj hannah greenberg 200KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs.

Thereafter, she's been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than three dozen books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.

Find out more at her website: <http://kjhannahgreenberg.net/>.