Brain Slug

By Nick Petrou

Isfgenre must admit, I was hesitant to take the job on Ida IV's jungle moon when I heard about the brain slugs. But now I can't imagine my life without my little guy.

Saprilla was one printed dinner or "I'm not in the mood" from picking me up with her forelegs and chewing off my head. I figured we could use some time apart (and some cash), so I holo'd my colleagues from the old days and asked if they could use an extra pair of hands on any jobs this side of the galaxy. They told me about their next big target, and then the brain slugs. With a bounty like that, I could've kept Saprilla from ritualistically killing me for another rotation or so, maybe even rented us a shoebox topside. When she asked if I was getting myself into trouble again, I made up something about some prospectors who needed protection from the moon's endemic fauna. She wasn't vibrating her underwings, but she seemed to buy it. As I climbed into my skiff, she scuttled up to the passenger-side window. I saw myself a thousandfold in her eyes — my head a caterpillar-protein sausage sticking out of a bun.

"I want stability," she clicked. "A family."

"That's why I'm taking this gig, Saprilla. Last one off-world. I promise."

"I hate how this sounds, Tyler, but put a baby in me when you come back or don't come back at all."

***

The moon was a malachite marble orbiting a gobstopper, white shell sucked to the cyan and orange beneath. As we got closer, blue-green pockmarks swelled into being. We aimed the bow at the largest of the lakes and held course. We landed on a slab of limestone on the lake's southern bank. I thumbed a tube of flechettes into my slinger, stuck my head into a glass bubble, and walked the plank.

The jungle sounded like Saprilla moult-crying inside my skull. A buttery haze clung to everything. Insects snaked through it in schools a million strong. The trees reminded me of buried footage from Earth — that rainforest named after that tech company or whatever it was. A kilometre-thick buffer of putrid reeds encircled the lake, and I could barely see water from where I was on the ground. We were just about to power up the bots and start hacking our way through the jungle when our target seized the initiative and opened fire.

A plasma bolt sizzled out the side of Prisprata's scaled head. Two more turned Elodine into a steaming pile of blueberry pulp. A neon-pink volley cut a tree in half. I tried to dive out of the way as it crashed down on top of me.

Slipping in and out of consciousness, I watched a hazard-yellow crayon melt down a reed stem and then pulsate over the earth towards my face. As it squelched up the side of my helmet and in through the jagged hole just in front of my nose, I noticed a cluster of sharp tendrils feeling out in all directions from its front-facing end. Among the tendrils was a tiny horizontal slit, pulled into what I now know was a smile. I remember pain, Deema dragging my fat ass up the ramp, and yellow veins spreading through the blackness of my semiconscious mind before throbbing and then fading into it.

***

When I came to, I thought the anaesthetic was causing some sort of lag between my body and brain. I climbed out of the healing tank just fine, got dressed and chugged down two cylinders of nutrient water no problem at all. When I went to the lavatory, I looked back and checked my stool before ejecting it into the vacuum. Strange, but no cause for alarm. It was when I tried to print something to eat that I started panicking. I saw the icon for MACARONI AND CHEESE and watched my index finger press CHICKEN, AIR FRIED.

The mess doors flung open and Deema lumbered through. "Something's wrong" was on the tip of my tongue, but "I owe you one, D" is what came out of my mouth. I was freaking the hell out, but all I could do was watch as someone else steered my life.

I had plenty of time to think about my new situation on the way back to Hegero III, but it wasn't until I got home to Saprilla that I put my feet up — so to speak.

***

I climbed out of my skiff and pulled Saprilla against my chest. We went inside, and I stroked her throat glands and sucked her antennae, tasting her bittersweet oils as I had never before. Her carapace went soft and warm, and after her abdomen quivered and decompressed over the bed, oozing a clear fluid into the mattress, she said, "Shit, Tyler, I didn't know your species was even capable of that."

Within five rotations, I had worked the galactic stock market as I had worked Saprilla's insectoid body, turning the six figures I had split with Deema into nine. I came home from the gym in a Metropolis Mark V and gave my old skiff to the agamid family below us. We left our dim apartment in the crust and sailed the kilometre-wide topside streets, a real sunset on our backs, solar-celled space elevators and skyscrapers casting their shadows over the planet.

Myself as much of a passenger as my beautiful wife, I pointed out one of the skyscrapers ahead, dark-green foliage pouring from its every balcony. "That one — that's our new home."

Saprilla rested her head on my shoulder. "And we'll be needing the extra space too."

For the first time since Ida IV, the yellow veins throbbed in the forefront of my mind. They tugged on my nervous system and rotated my head until I faced Saprilla's abdomen, where, beneath the surface, there spread a cluster of veins in kind. I smiled.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

Nick Petrou

nick petrou 200Nick Petrou works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is with or forthcoming with The Arcanist, Ghost Orchid Press, Quill & Crow, and others.

You can find out lots more about him at <nspetrou.com>.

aus25grn

AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

ASFF logo 200

Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.

<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.

aus25grn

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.

aus25grn

In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 277

00001001 Lives (Part One)
By Alistair Lloyd

Adaptation: A Dialogue in 10 Parts
By Greg Beatty

Claim Jumper
By D. M. Woolston

Essence
By Tim Borella

In the City of Swordfighting Robots
By Tara Campbell

Moral Module 6: Urashima Taro
By Jeana Jorgensen

Once Again on the Beach
By Umiyuri Katsuyama Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Soggy, Soggy Nights
By Wes Parish

Terrarium
By Chris Karageorge

The Life of a Computer
By Matthew McAyeal

The Return of Rahab
By R. E. Diaz

AntipodeanSF September 2021

ISSUE 276

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

rocket crux 2 75

Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

Kindle version:

AntiSF's Narration Team

ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

angle mic

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.

old style mic flat 25

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>

old style mic flat 25

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>.

aus25grn

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>.

old style mic flat 25

tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

angle mic

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.

old style mic flat 25

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.

old style mic flat 25

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>

 old style mic flat 25

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.

old style mic flat 25

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

There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places… We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future. In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues, reality.

Arthur C. Clarke

The Contributors

brian mahon 200Brian Mahon is a former cook, wanderer, lab technician, submariner, and present day now-and-then writer.

He splits his remaining energies seeking knowledge, fighting age, doing laundry, attempting to join the 1,000 pound club, and using flash fiction as a creativity relief valve.

Further information is available on his website, <www.mahanimalism.net>.

greg foyster 200Greg Foyster is a writer, illustrator and author of the memoir Changing Gears.

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

His fiction has appeared in The Big Issue, Page Seventeen and Verandah.

He currently works in communications for an environment charity and is finishing a book of short stories. Website: <www.gregfoyster.com>.

aus25grn

StanleiBellan 200Stanlei Bellan, like any respectable time traveler, has many stories to tell. Some of the most fun and witty are in his book T is for Time Travel.

In other timelines, Stanlei has been a physics professor, an engineering graduate, a start-up entrepreneur, and a winner of six Cannes Lions awards for his creative work in advertising and entertainment.

An immigrant from Brazil who was adopted by California, Stanlei is still learning how to bend time to fit his wife, two sons and a daughter, a cat, his business partners, and his many hobbies (like playing Dungeons & Dragons and uncovering fascinating historical facts).

Stanlei’s writing is inspired by an unquenchable desire to transcend reality into fantasy. You can chat with Stanlei on twitter at @stanlei or visit <https://stanlei.com> to get a FREE STORY!

julian roberts 200I grew up in Elizabeth, SA but have fallen in love with Adelaide's southern coastal suburbs (there's just so much more nature down here).

I live with my wife, The Boss, and my toddler who's a sentient squeal obsessed with dinosaurs and going to the zoo.

We have four cats. They're not awful, but they could be more helpful around the house.

I have a long-distance relationship with depression and have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Cycling is my favourite way to get around and I'm pretty into basketball too (go 36ers).

Cartoons are my favourite thing to binge.

"Be excellent to each other"

aus25grn

Chad has a B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

His fiction has appeared in Farther Stars Than These, Larks Fiction Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, Verdad Magazine, and AntipodeanSF.

nick petrou 200Nick Petrou works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is with or forthcoming with The Arcanist, Ghost Orchid Press, Quill & Crow, and others.

You can find out lots more about him at <nspetrou.com>.

aus25grn

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.

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

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.

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.

aus25grn

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>

aus25grn

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. He 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 ... ?"

aus25grn

rick kennett 200I'm a life-long resident of Melbourne, Australia, where I work in the transport industry. I like to explore graveyards, an odd hobby I call necrotourism, although I believe the correct word is taphophile.

I've been writing since 1979 and have had SF and ghost stories in many magazines, anthologies and podcasts. In 2008 my story "The Dark and What It Said" won a Ditmar, and in 2013 my podcast stories "Now Cydonia" and "The Road to Utopia Plain" won two Parsec Awards. I'm presently the podcast reporter for the M.R. James journal Ghosts & Scholars.

"The Gods in their Galleries" is a sequel to my novel "Presumed Dead", available on Amazon.

aus25grn