Once Again on the Beach

By Umiyuri Katsuyama - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

sfgenreAt dusk, I tread a grass-filled path. How did I get here? I tuck loose strands of hair behind my ears. The uneven earth under my high heels almost makes me lose my balance. The setting sun paints the western horizon fiery gold, as the rest of the ultramarine sky deepens its hue. Venus flickers, heralding the arrival of night. The last rays of the sun sink behind a white gabled-roofed house on a hill.

All of this looks familiar. I’ve been here before. That means the app has turned on. I head toward the house to have my last wish granted. I could choose not to go, but that wouldn’t delay my death. So I continue my trek.

The nanobots monitoring the blood flow in my brain are programmed to send electronic signals and make me dream a pleasant dream in the last moments of my life. I knew this, but I had some doubts. Even so, the sample visuals looked stunning. The app had a low ratio of reviews to downloads, but it had garnered universally positive ratings. Only those rare individuals who come back from near-death experiences can write such reviews.

★★★☆☆ Reunited with My King!

Except for one tiny detail, this app got everything right. King wasn’t a silver tabby but a yellow tabby. Even so, the rest was perfect. Everything else — his scent, his meows, and his whisker movements — was identical. Like he used to do, this King brought me a dead squirrel.

All in all, I can give it only three stars because my King wasn’t silver.

I walk uphill toward the house with light steps. A breeze blows the mixed scents of grass and burning wood into my nostrils. The faint whiff of smoke makes me nostalgic about my childhood.

The smell reminds me of the rare times when I heated water in a pot over an open fire and roasted marshmallows on a stick. While I grew up, my mother rarely allowed me to play outside citing safety reasons. Once she gave me a severe talking-to when I came home scratched up and bleeding from a cycling outing.

“Young lady, you’re going to get tetanus one of these days.” Mother glared at me. “Then what?”

I wanted to go camping with friends from school, but she vetoed the idea. A girl sent me a postcard featuring a scenic lake with “This camp sucks a big time. Get me outta here!” scribbled over it. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t go, I thought.

“Just do what I say and you’ll be fine,” Mother would say. In most cases, she was right. “Believe me, you want to be financially independent when you grow up.” She pushed me to study hard. I got into an academically competitive university, got a highly sought after qualification, and got a high-paying job.

“Now you’ve gotta get yourself a husband,” Mother said.

Hold on a minute, Mom. Don’t rush me, I thought.

Once I got used to my professional life, I got myself a dog instead of a boyfriend. Back home, Mother was against the idea.

“We can’t have a dog in this house. They shed so much hair! Who do you think is going to clean after it?” she said. Even so, it was my childhood dream to keep a dog as a pet. Now I was old enough to make my own decisions. Besides I lived on my own, and there was plenty of room for a canine companion. After I went on a date with several candidates at local animal shelters, I settled on one eventually. I was busy with my work, so I would hire someone to walk my dog and groom her. Even so, I had nothing else to splurge on. I think I made good use of my money. I pampered her because she deserved it.

As I reach the peak of the hill, a stone-paved square spreads before the building. The wooden door is painted green. A faint light seeps from inside through the small windows consisting of red and yellow pieces of square glass. Roses grow tall close to the door. Black-green ivy crawls up the white wall, framing the door. I grab the knob. It doesn’t feel cold to touch. I push the door, which swings open without much resistance.

The entrance hall is dimly lit by a yellowish lamp. Rhomboidal shaped tiles cover the floor. The stairs are also covered with rhomboidal shapes. I may be able to kill time just by looking at the title pattern, but I head toward a light seeping through a slightly open door up ahead in the hallway.

I slip through the gap in the white door. It’s more dimly lit inside than I expected. I step on a zigzag-patterned floor and glance at wine-red walls. A bar counter comes with a tall, red stool that looks inviting. I sit on the white-blood-cell-shaped stool, which is surprisingly comfortable as it supports my hips adequately. A paper box as large as a shoebox lies on the counter. Its green, gold arabesque-printed lid looks beautiful. There’s nobody else here. Behind the counter the shelves are lined with cups, saucers, minerals, old toys, handcrafts—a red horse, a carved bear, and a beckoning cat, apparently a personal memorabilia collection. I spot a paperweight with dandelion fluff trapped in resin. I used to own one just like that.

Seated, I look around.

“Welcome,” the box says.

"Box? A talking box?"

"You can say that," the voice said in a smooth, non-threatening tone. I'm speaking from the box, to be more precise. I'm sorry to have surprised you." The box pauses. “Please tell me the name of the person you want to meet.”

I see their face and their figure. Yet their name escapes me. Oh, I’m surely dying.

A sweet fragrance wafts in the air. An orange mug on the counter contains dark rum mixed with hot milk. I grab the mug, take in the fragrance, and drink it in one gulp. In winter I used to drink it before going to bed.

“Why don’t you take a look at your wrist?”

I do as the voice says and find “Robin” written on my wrist. It’s the name I registered in the app. 

“Robin, my darling.”

“Please open the lid.”

“This?”

I lift the lid with both hands and look inside. There is a glass bottle.

“Oh!” I hold my breath.

The bottle contains white sand, disintegrated shells, and coral. My mind flashes back to the beach resort I once visited.

“She’s here.”

And something noisily scratches the wooden floor. Before I turn, a large dog puts her forelegs on my knees. In the next instance, she presses a warm, wet nose against my cheek. I pet the dog's head, shoulders, and back out of reflex. I keep petting her. She’s a white standard poodle, well clipped. Yet she’s Robin. My Robin has brown, long fur. But my memory is being overridden. Her snout smells like a dusty, sunny spot.

As I try to get off the stool, Robin trips me over, and I fall facedown. The floor turns into the white sand, and it breaks my fall. I prop up myself on my elbows, and the blue ocean spreads before me. A wave breaks and foamy water rushes up the sandy beach. Coconut trees line along the coast. The sun glares down from a clear, blue sky, but its rays feel soft on my skin.

Robin licks my sandaled toes, and she kicks up grains of sand in the air. She stares at me, expecting to play more. To grant her request, I hurl a Frisbee with all my might. The Frisbee draws a lazy arc in the air as Robin runs after it. A wave wets Robin’s feet and foam flies. She leaps, catches the Frisbee in the air, and dashes toward me. I try to pull the Frisbee away from her, but she doesn’t let go. While we play tug-of-war, I fall, and another wave leaves me drenched. I bust into a peal of laughter. The sea spray tastes salty.

After I’m done playing with Robin, I go back to the first room. White sand is scattered on the floor. Robin drinks water from a container, her tongue slapping the water.

As I sit on the red stool, a cup of fresh mint mojito appears on the counter.

“Did you have a good time?” the voice asks.

“You bet!”

I gulp down mojito. I’m exhausted, but I feel great. 

“That sounds great.”

“But . . . it’s not going to hurt her, does it? Wouldn’t cut her life short somehow?” I know the whole thing is an AR creation, Robin looks so real. Didn’t I bring her to the other side with me?

“No. Please don’t worry.”

“Is that so? Glad to know that . . .” I suppress a yawn. Alcohol makes me drowsy.

“The bed is ready,” the voice says in a gentle tone. I spot a slightly open door on the wall on my left. I drag myself off the stool and take a few steps toward the door, as Robin follows me close behind. We step inside together. Maple trees stand outside the window. A green-shaded lamp shines on the night table next to the bed covered with a double wedding-ring quilt. I collapse onto the bed, and Robin leaps on it.

“Hey, you’ve got dirty feet. We’ve got to wash them first,” I mumble in a half-hearted manner. “Oh well, never mind, Robin. Let’s play tomorrow again.” My eyes shut. Darkness wraps around me, but right as the night sky pulls over me, Robin so warm against my side, a female voice is at my ear.

“Hey, you’re awake, honey,” a young woman in a white uniform chirps, a broad smile spreading around her lips. She looks vaguely familiar. “You got us really worried, you know that? We thought we would lose you for a while. A meteor? Phew. What do you know? Who could’ve seen it coming, eh? They found you among the rubble. Oh, your hair? Don’t worry, honey. It’ll grow back soon.”

★★★★★ Different Yet the Same

Mine was a golden retriever, but a standard poodle showed up. I went like, “What?” When I touched her, it didn’t feel like my Robin. But she was an authentic poodle, and she embodied Robin’s spirit. Although she didn’t look anything like my Robin, she behaved just like her. A great app. Highly recommended.

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About the Author

Umiyuri Katsuyama

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.

 

About the Translator

Toshiya Kamei

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.

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 278

00001001 Lives (Part Two)
By Alistair Lloyd

Eat What You Kill
By Yukari Kousaka - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Fallen
By Ben Herriot

Kipple Cube
By Chris Karageorge

PauseHusband.com
By Daniel McKay

Reunion
By Jack Mackay Stanhope

The Contract
By Bart Meehan

The Sniper
By Kevin J. Phyland

The Wish
By Bart Meehan

Worse Monsters
By R.E. Diaz

scifaiku
By PS Cottier

AntipodeanSF October 2021

ISSUE 277

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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

dm woolston 200DM grew up in the wild west of Nevada, leaping across its flaming sands just for fun.

Beside other strange adventures, he enjoys running while not being chased, and writing in a variety of Genres.

What can he say... he’s got a fairly short attention span. Squirrel!

But you can always find him at <http://www.dmwoolston.com>

Matthew McAyeal is a writer from Portland, Oregon.

His short stories have been published by "Bards and Sages Quarterly," "Fantasia Divinity Magazine," "cc&d," "The Fear of Monkeys," "Danse Macabre," "The Metaworker," "Scarlet Leaf Magazine," "Bewildering Stories," "The Magazine of History & Fiction," "Tall Tale TV," "Fiction on the Web," and "Necro Magazine."

In 2008, two screenplays he wrote were semi-finalists in the Screenplay Festival.

jeana jorgenson 200Jeana Jorgensen earned her PhD in folklore from Indiana University (USA).

She researches gender and sexuality in fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings, folk narrative more generally, body art, dance, and feminist/queer theory.

Her poetry has appeared at Strange Horizons, Nevermore Journal, Liminality, Glittership, and other venues.

She spends entirely too much time on Twitter as @foxyfolklorist.

greg beatty 200Greg Beatty writes poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a range of nonfiction. He’s published hundreds of works — everything from poems about stars to essays on cooking disasters.

When he’s not writing, he walks with his dog, dabbles in the martial arts, plays with his grandchildren, and teaches college.

For more information on Greg's writing, visit <https://beattytales.com/>

Greg recently assembled 50 of his speculative poems into a collection, Cosmic Voices for Human Ears. It and other stories are available on Amazon and Payhip.

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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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.

rudy diaz 200A Physicist in Engineer’s clothing, Rudy worked 20 years in the Defense Aerospace Industry, from performing Lightning Protection analysis on the Space Shuttle to the design of Radar Absorbing Materials. He then joined Academia as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, where for another 20 years he attempted to infect unsuspecting students with a love for Maxwell’s equations.

Since High School he has spent most of his free time either writing Science Fiction or trying to figure out how to make Science Fiction a reality. (His students' latest work has led to the realisation of efficient RF antennas that radiate using true magnetic (not electric) currents.)

His speculative fiction short stories have appeared in Residential Aliens, Ray Gun Revival, The Untold Podcast, and Antipodean SF. He blogs on the subjects of Science, Religion, and their intersection. The rest of his work is in the peer reviewed Physics and Engineering literature.

Rudy has also been involved in Jail Ministry for about 30 years. He and his wife Marcy live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Links: <https://rediazauthor.com/>

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.

tara campbell 200Tara Campbell (www.taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse.

Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising.

She's the author of a novel, "TreeVolution", and two collections, "Circe's Bicycle" and"Midnight at the Organporium".

 

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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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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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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