Dream Killer

By Col Hellmuth

sfgenreI eschewed the coach service at the last stop on the outskirts of Copacetic and wished the driver a pleasant journey; determined to complete my own on foot. It was an agreeable day, ideal for a genial ambulation through charming scenery, and Copacetic’s hinterland fitted this scenario most amply.

Gently undulating at a rate not at all taxing for someone as recently rested as I, the main road wended the last kilometres into town through remnant bushland — gradually transformed into domesticity by more exotic, less random plantings as it wound its way through a valley — roughly following and offering occasional glimpses of a river; flowing clean, clear and sometimes wide. The road transversed the river by means of an ancient-looking yet well maintained stone bridge upon entering the town proper.

  I was here; I had a job to do. Now I just had to find out what it was.

I wandered — aimless at first — through tidy, uninhabited parks and gardens, dotted throughout the town. It was quiet, tranquil. Surreal. The township appeared as commendable as its name implied. I almost expected to see rainbow-farting Monoceros’ grazing on the lawns; fluffy white cottontails bounding gaily between their legs, copulating freely and laying tinselled eggs. 

Such a change from my usual work environment. Why then, was I here?

My meanderings brought me, after a time, to where I perceived (given its elevated position and overview of the local topography) to be the geographical centre of town. Nestled comfortably amidst a row of quaint and unobtrusive store-fronts, I chanced upon an engraved brass plaque, next to an open heavy doorframe giving access to a well-worn ascending oaken stairwell. The plaque proclaimed: “Mayor,” in an appropriately understated and aesthetically pleasing font. I am appreciative of a winsome typeface and wondered bemusedly as I climbed the stairs, whether the mayor's tastes were as well refined and restrained when extended to other matters.

***

The mayor, it transpired, was an agitated and irritable soul. He appeared red-faced, flustered, and not at all approachable when I crossed the threshold of his office and attempted an introduction. He tried to dismiss me with a tired flourish of his wrist and an unconvincing engagement of the telephone as a prop to feign busyness. 

I stood and endured his stuttered imaginary conversation with growing amusement, as he increasingly faltered for words. Eventually he trailed off mid-sentence and acknowledged my presence:

“You can hear the dial-tone, can't you?” 

I nodded.

“F— it, what do you want—and how did you get past Jenny?”

“Jenny?”

“Bloody secretary. — JENNY!”

There was no reply from the foyer. My entry, he had yet to register, had been unimpeded by the presence of “Jenny" or any other crowd-control measure.

“Unreliable, gossiping flirt. Probably off f... lunching one of the constituents again.

— Well? I am very busy you know,” the mayor chastened me, in the vain hope I would be deterred by this feeble manoeuvre and just wander obediently out of his office, and his life.

The ‘phone did clamour then: proving its other, conventional, functionality. It was an old fashioned rotary-dial telephone. Inexplicably the ring-tone was the theme to “Peter Gunn.” The mayor's side of the ensuing conversation didn't sound appreciably different from his imaginary one before, other than in tone.

“— I don’t give a f— if Timmy's fallen down the well again. It's only three f—— foot deep for s—'s sake, tell him to get out of it and over it and stop being a f—— wet-sock!” He slammed down the receiver.

“Young lassie, calls and barks at me every bloody time it happens,” he offered in explanation. “Her dumb-ass kid brother falls in the ‘wishing’ well in the mall every other time they come into town. Trying to steal pennies, the little s—.

—Call triple-zero, I keep telling her; waste their f—— time instead and see what happens.”

I was beginning to have an inkling as to why I was here.

“Oh for f—’s sake, not again! “

I turned to follow the mayor's gaze — through a large picture-frame window offering a view of the eastern side of town with its parks and river. A small herd of unicorn were working their way down the nature-strip in the main street, making a meal of it as they went — ethereal, multi-hued trails of luminescence alternately emanating from one or another of their posteriors. The beasts were being stalked by a gaggle of giggling, pimple-faced teenagers — taking turns darting up behind and sniffing their equine bottoms. The kids appeared to be getting high off of rainbows.

“What did you say your name was?”

“I didn't,” I corrected. “I am here to offer my professional services. I’m known: to my clients and acquaintances alike — as the Dream-killer." In truth, this was just one of many names I am known by.

“O—kay,” said the mayor, though his face said something different altogether.

“I am here to help you,” I assured him.

“I don't see how the extermination of my already mortally wounded dreams is going to be particularly f—— helpful to me, son,” he replied, clearly exasperated.

“You misunderstand me, Mr Mayor. This...” I punctuated my pause with a gesture calculated to embrace our not especially nightmarish surrounds, “This here and now... is simply a dreamscape of your own imagining — or to your troubled sensibilities, a torment. I have seen far more terrifying examples in the minds of my usual clientele, I must opine.”

This was the pivotal point in the job. Sometimes they don't take the news well: parlay to shoot the messenger. If the mayor had a riposte in mind he didn't yet utter it, so I continued:

“— My job is to terminate this perfidy, this un-reality you find so distasteful.... If you so wish.”

The sound of ascending footfalls preceded another burst of the now-familiar theme-song. This time the telephone was answered in the foyer. Presumably the secretary was back from lunch. I took in a snatch of the conversation:

“Yes, I realise cows aren't usually able to talk Mrs. Farmer, but I don't see how the mayor's office can help... and kids do have active imaginations at that age,” a female voice explained patiently. “Maybe you could request your son have a chat with the school counsellor...”

I eventually departed — my job done — leaving the mayor with a token resembling a coin of his imagined currency, along with instructions to throw it in the well in the town square the next time he went to rescue Timmy. 

***

The former mayor of ‘Copacetic’ awoke to familiar surroundings and as his usual titled self: Warren C. Flucher (pronounced flusher) — proprietor of W.C. Plumbing Services ‘No blockage too small!’ 

From the other side of street-facing bedroom windows — inadequately fortified against the noise of urban life despite their heavy drapes — his ears were assaulted by the thumping bass of distant ‘doof’ music; sporadic, discordant traffic sounds of protesting brakes and tyres; a couple of loud, reverberating reports that could have been fireworks, although just as likely gun shots — followed by a piercing scream, which Warren Flucher found it convenient to believe was a late night reveller enthusiastically voicing her (or maybe his, who could tell these days?) delight in especially spectacular pyrotechnics.

The digital display on Flucher's bedside alarm clock showed 1:48, in phosphorescent red, with a blinking colon. His wife's side of the bed was still unruffled and vacant. Everything as normal then. Satisfied the nightmare was over, he manoeuvred himself into a position that minimised the protestations of his ageing tradesman's back, and drifted back to sleep.

The next time Flucher woke it was to the sound of his digital clock radio, an occurrence so rare of late, he almost slept through it — probably even would have if his wife hadn't elbowed him roughly in the ribs, which was about as affectionate as she got (around him anyway) these days.

It seemed to Flucher that no time at all had passed since his last awakening. Despite its briefness, it was the soundest sleep he’d experienced in years. Usually, he cancelled the 5:00 alarm long before it went off; he only still bothered to set it out of habit.

The early-morning-shift news announcer didn't have a lot new to announce. The continuing Fremantle dock strikes looked like turning violent, and young women were still being advised not to go out alone while the ‘Claremont serial-killer’ remained at large. The newscaster’s droning voice was replaced by a sound-bite of the Prime Minister detailing the impending implementation of the consumer tax his government would never, ever, introduce. 

“More fucking paperwork,” Warren muttered to himself as he flicked the clock-radio off.

Despite the rare few hours of sound and dreamless sleep, he didn't feel particularly rested. His wife, Jennifer (she hated Jenny), had lapsed back into unconsciousness atop the bedcovers, still dressed in her evening-wear from another night out with girlfriends. At least she had managed to get her shoes off somehow.

***

Freshly showered, and dressed in his workday uniform, Flusher fished in his jacket pocket for his keys. His hand withdrew something else: a piece of card. Expecting to see another of the unsolicited and unwanted business cards foisted on him by pushy plumbing suppliers, he glanced at it — hand poised above the kitchen bin — and was startled to see, in his own handwriting:

You know what to do.

—D-K. 

Flusher turned the card over. On the back embossed in tiny but tasteful lettering was simply:

Safe for Septics 

***

Standing in the bathroom, Flucher holds the card over the porcelain bowl, the one Jennifer will probably be hugging like it’s her best friend in a couple of hours. He drops it; when it hits the water it floats, right side up, and taunts him even as the scribbled ink of his unremembered hand smudges and bleeds from the cheap absorbent pulp.

He presses the full-flush button. And as the card is whisked away — to the tune of the gurgling cistern — destined to join the rest of the city’s flushable detritus:

Warren Flucher makes a wish.

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About the Author

Col Hellmuth

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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AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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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.

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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 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

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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 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.

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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 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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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

Any dogma, primarily based on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

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>.

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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"

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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>.

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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.

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.

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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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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 ... ?"

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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.

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