Hero's Journey Helpline

By Bethany Tatman

sfgenreThe first call came while Stephen was halfway through giving Deanna his coffee order, which displeased him greatly. He tried to mouth large skim cappuccino at her while putting on his headset and flipping switches as his computer screen lit up. 

‘Hello, you have reached the Hero’s Journey Hotline my name is Stephen how may I direct your call?’

 ‘Hi, um,’ the voice on the other line was young, male, and shaky, ‘I don’t really know how to explain what’s happened but today —’

Deanna tapped Stephen’s shoulder. He looked backwards, and Deanna stage whispered: Do you want a sandwich? Stephen attempted to indicate that he’d prefer a pastry, but that just made Deanna look confused so he gave up. Stephen sighed, and once again resigned himself to pastrami. 

‘My apologies, just one moment …’ He tapped at his computer screen and zoomed in on the caller’s location: Ardelia. Stephen clicked on the information file and quickly skimmed through it. Once a peaceful country, the kingdom of Ardelia has been torn asunder after the deaths of its beloved king and queen. The country has been ravaged by war and chaos, but hope still exists — rumours of a young hero, the royal family’s lost son, persist. People pray that the young prince survived and will return to save his people … 

Well. That explained why the kid was so distressed. He certainly had a lot on his plate. Stephen tuned back into the conversation, to find that the boy was still talking a mile a minute. 

‘ — KILLED HIM and then they were going to kill me too but somehow I shot LIGHTNING out of my hands and they died too, and then,’ the boy hiccoughed, sounding like he was on the verge of tears, ‘and then I ran and hid in the forest and now I don’t know what to do!’ 

Stephen frowned and closed the file. ‘I’m sorry, who died?’ 

‘Ev-everyone!’ 

‘Including the,’ Stephen paused to double-check, ‘wise old wizard who mysteriously appeared in your village after the death of your parents?’ 

The boy started crying even louder. 

‘Oh. Come now. There’s no need for … that.’ Stephen hated it when they cried. He tried to think of something comforting to say. ‘Don’t be sad. They weren’t even your real parents.’ 

***

Stephen was halfway through his disappointing pastrami sandwich when the second call came. 

‘Mmmphafds.’ His mouth was still full of bread. 

‘Heeello? Is anybody there?’ The voice on the other end of the line was also male, but sounded a little older than the first caller. 

‘Hello,’ Stephen hastily wiped some crumbs away from his mouth, ‘you have reached the Hero’s Journey Hotline my name is Stephen how may I direct your call?’

‘Hey there, I’m not really sure what you guys can do but I was meant to defeat the Dark Lord today, but when I arrived at his castle to challenge him he just gave up and said I could have it?’ 

‘He what?’ 

‘He said, and I quote, ‘I give up, I can’t be bothered anymore, this is all yours now’ and then he threw down his sceptre and left.'

For a second Stephen was completely stumped. He’d seen a lot over his years at the Hero’s Journey Helpline, but this was truly the first time he’d heard of a Dark Lord walking out on the job. Were Dark Lords even allowed to walk out on the job? Could they force him to come back on a contractual technicality? No, that would mean getting legal involved and Maureen, Stephen’s immediate supervisor, would hate that. Maybe some background information would help. He read through the necessary information: Ilyesian Empire  … ruled by a dark necromancer … commoners still hope that the chosen one will rise up and save them  … So it was same old same old. Nothing helpful. 

‘That’s … very unusual.’ 

‘I know, right? I mean obviously I wasn’t looking forward to having to battle to the death, to take a life, but this is the man who killed my entire village, my family. I’ve been training for years for this very moment …’ 

Stephen tuned out as the young man continued monologuing. Something he’d learned very quickly was that once you’d heard one young hero’s monologue, you’d heard them all. While he waited for the man to finish he searched through some computer files, and then found the number for the relevant department.

‘Okay,’ he said, once the monologue had finished, ‘fortunately, we’ll be able to sort something out for you. Since you’ve lost your Dark Lord another one will be provided for you free of charge. I’m going to speak to our refunds and replacements department about this so I’ll need to put you on hold, just one moment please.’

***

The third call arrived just before five. Stephen glanced up at the office clock. If he finished this in under ten minutes he’d be able to clock off early. 

‘Hello, you have reached the Hero’s Journey Hotline my name is —’

‘So I’ve gone to the Mountains of Despair, but now that I’m here I can’t find the hidden shrine.’ 

Hold on. Something was different. The voice belonged to a young woman, a girl. Without thinking, Stephen tried to click open the CALLER ID INFORMATION file, but his computer screen buzzed with static and then cut to black.

‘I’m sorry.’ Stephen attempted to wave Maureen over. She saw him and pointedly walked away. ‘You’re what?’ 

The girl huffed. ‘I told you, I’ve taken the sacred amulet to the Mountains of Despair, but now that I’m here I can't find the sacred shrine!’

Suddenly it all clicked. Stephen understood what had happened. ‘I’m very sorry,’ he said in his most professional voice, ‘but it appears you have been given the wrong number. I will transfer you to our Distressed Damsels Hotline. Please hold.’ 

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About the Author

Bethany Tatman

bethany tatman 200Bethany Tatman is an aspiring writer who currently resides in one of the more hipster suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

She has previously been published in Lot’s Wife.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading a variety of genres of books — but fantasy will always be her favourite.

She can be found at <@bethany_writes> on Twitter.

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AntiSF & 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.

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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 285

A Babbler from Door-toDoor
By Leon D Furze

A.I. — Ay, Aye!
By Col Hellmuth

Conception
By Jon Michael Emory

The Implausible Rise of Z-97R
By Ed Errington

In the Perpetual Dining Halls of Vallhalla
By Michael T. Schaper

Lady Killer
By Diana Grove

Summer Solstice
By Kevin J. Phyland

The Alarm
By Harris Tobias

The Return of the Drongo, Reborn
By William Kitcher

Two Sons
By Botond Teklesz

AntipodeanSF May 2022

ISSUE 284

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 

SF Quote

The advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation's Edge

The Contributors

jolie lindholm 200Jolie Lindholm grew up in small towns on Long Island, NY, later moving to Florida for college.

When not writing fiction, she is acting frontwoman for South Florida rock band The Darling Fire, along with her husband of twenty-three years. They share two chihuahuas — one attack and one docile — that rule the roost.

Sci-fi and horror are her biggest influences, and she has fond memories of playing adventure games on floppy disk. She holds an MA in Criminal Justice and a BA in Communication.

(Photo credit: Billy Cessna Jr)

Chana Kohl works in Jerusalem in clinical trials and research, trotting the globe and writing speculative fiction in her spare time.

An avid sci-fi reader since adolescence, Chana only recently turned this passion towards writing, frequently incorporating cultural and religious elements from West and North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East.

Her flash stories have previously appeared or will appear on 365 Tomorrows and the upcoming anthology Planetside: Science Fiction Drabbles.

chana kohl 200You can follow her creative writing journey on Twitter: <@chanakohl> or on her blog: <www.chanakohl.wordpress.com>.

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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bethany tatman 200Bethany Tatman is an aspiring writer who currently resides in one of the more hipster suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

She has previously been published in Lot’s Wife.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading a variety of genres of books — but fantasy will always be her favourite.

She can be found at <@bethany_writes> on Twitter.

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william kerr 200William Kerr is a self-professed science fiction enthusiast. He was born and raised in Tasmania but now calls Canberra home.

His personal preference is hard science fiction and dystopian-style stories which definitely influenced his first published piece ‘The Burning’.

He is looking forward to publishing more flash fiction and is hoping to become a regular contributor.

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Robin Hillard has had a number of stories published in magazines and ezines including AntipodeanSF.

She now lives in Melbourne with a bossy little dog who takes her to the off leash park.  

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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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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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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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