Issue 293

By Harris Tobias

There are two dawns on Morton — they are called Red Dawn and Blue Dawn. Morton’s red sun is a red giant star and it fills the sky with a ruddy glow. The red sun distorts the colours making the sky look like blood and the grass a sickly brown. The red sun fills the sky like a malevolent bloodshot eye.

The blue sun rises exactly an hour and twenty two minutes later and its blue white light restores the spectrum. The sky turns blue and the grass a familiar Earth-like green.

The time between the two dawns is considered unlucky and unhealthy. All the inhabitants of Morton stay indoors during the Red Time. Similarly, the number 122 is fraught with significance and is believed by many to be either cursed or blest depending upon one’s belief system. It’s ironic that Morton’s World is the 122nd settled planet in the Confederation. We also rank 122nd in popularity, but that’s another story.

We are a superstitious lot we Morticians. No kidding, that is what we call ourselves. It’s funny but it isn’t. It certainly doesn’t help attract new colonists or make my job any easier. At the various planetary conventions our booth is always the most poorly attended. Morton’s World is a hard sell. We have a bad reputation as a frightening and unlucky place. No one wants our brochures. Who can blame them? We are called the planet of the dead or the funeral planet. If you were seeking a new life would you pick Morton’s planet? Our name doesn’t truly reflect our world but it is understandable.

Morton’s World gets its name from the famous Admiral Harry P. Morton, the hero of the Second Thorg War. Every school kid knows the story of Admiral Morton and how he crushed the Thorgs in the battle of Sector Five. It’s fitting that there should be a world named after him, and we are proud to bear his name. As it turned out, it hasn’t been a good PR move. Morton’s has the lowest immigration rate of all the settled planets. 

When the blue sun rises and the Red Time ends, Morton’s is a lovely place. The land is lush and verdant, the soil fertile. Our small population means land is cheap and opportunity plentiful. But people are people, and they respond to fears and superstition more than they do to reason. Regardless of our reputation, I love my world and am proud to be a “Mortician.”

This reputation of ours isn’t just the results of our unfortunate name and our scary red sun. There is also “the story.” You probably already know the basic outlines. It was galaxy-wide news a few years back. You’d think the fact that there hasn’t been anything even remotely like it since would quell the wagging tongues, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I tell you all this by way of introduction; to give you some context into the story. I am speaking of the disappearance of Elizabeth Ward. 

Betty Ward was seventeen when she vanished from her family’s farm during The Red Time on the third of Amm, the 122nd day of our year and regarded by most, if not all natives to be an especially unlucky day. According to her parents, Betty was a good and obedient daughter and a second generation Mortician. Her family consisted of her parents, an older brother, Samuel, nineteen years old, and a younger sister, Rebecca twelve years of age. The Wards were, by all accounts, a happy and contented family. Able Ward, the father, ran a prosperous fruit operation growing — exporting genetically modified pears.

The night before her disappearance Betty told her sister that she was feeling “awkward” and that “the pears were speaking to her.”  She told her mother, Isabel, she was having trouble sleeping. They found pieces of her body scattered over several acres of orchard. Some of her clothing was snagged on high branches and bits of her flesh inexplicably absorbed into the woody parts of the trees. It was as if the trees themselves had torn the poor girl apart. The locals attributed the killing to The Red Time, and over the years it became the source of legends about the evil that lives between the suns. 

Stories like this don’t help recruiting efforts and, as a result, the population of Morton’s World has been declining over the last few decades. We, the members of the governing council, are taking steps to reverse this trend. We have hired a top notch public relations firm. They have already come up with a spiffy new logo and a catchy slogan: “Morton’s — a world of colour.”

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About the Author

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 <>. 

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: <>

Issue Contributors

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Meet the Narrators

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    Emma Louise GillEmma Louise Gill (she/her) is a British-Australian spec fic writer and consumer of vast amounts of coffee. Brought up on a diet of English lit, she rebelled and now spends her time writing explosive space opera and other fantastical things in

  • Tim Borella

    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

  • Timothy Gwyn

    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, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook

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  • Geraldine Borella

    geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. Her work has been published by Deadset Press, IFWG Publishing, Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge, AHWA/Midnight Echo, Antipodean SF, Shacklebound Books, Black Ink Fiction, Paramour Ink Fiction, House of Loki and Raven & Drake

  • Ed Errington

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    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

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  • Laurie Bell

    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.


  • Sarah Jane Justice

    Sarah Jane Justice 200Sarah Jane Justice is an Adelaide-based fiction writer, poet, musician and spoken word artist.

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  • Michelle Walker

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    As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognised it was definitely God who opened up the pathways for my husband and I to settle in the Valley.


  • Marg Essex

    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.


  • Alistair Lloyd

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  • Carolyn Eccles

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