Shedding

By Deborah Sheldon

sfgenreMy foot calluses have fallen off. They’re floating around me like rinds of parmesan cheese. Disgusting. But fascinating at the same time. Twirling in slow motion. When I signed up, nobody warned me about this. I was a big guy – over six feet, more than 300 pounds – and foot calluses have been part of my life ever since puberty hit.

And now?

Well, the calluses fled like proverbial rats abandoning the sinking ship. I expect you’re mulling over my choice of analogy. Does it mean I believe the ship is my body? Or my mind? I’m not sure myself. If only you would answer. Making sense of what’s happening is getting trickier by the day, Dr Sharipov, let me tell you.

For starters, it’s too quiet in the station. Deathly silent. Nobody warned me about this either. Prior to blast-off, I figured the equipment might buzz or tick or whirr, but the hush makes my eardrums ache. I gaze out the porthole and try to imagine the whisk and whipping zip of planets circling and asteroids streaking, the creaking crack of space. But there’s no air or water, meaning sound waves can’t travel, so I can’t fool myself.

In some ways, the training gave me too much information. In other ways, not enough.

A few of my calluses look honeycombed. Ugh. That my shed skin resembles food – either cheese rinds or honey – makes my stomach turn over. I miss real food. Dream about it. Can a stomach turn over in zero gravity? The station rotates so fast. One full orbit every ninety minutes. From the porthole, sixteen times a day, I can watch Australia whizz past. I do this month after month after month. And Earth just looks like a blue-green beachball.

Such a disappointment.

Ever since the moon landing, astronauts have crapped on about how special and magnificent it feels to look upon Earth; for the whole human race to be down there and the astronaut up here, mimicking God. Well, it doesn’t feel that way at all. That transcendental holier-than-thou blather is bullshit. Want to know how it feels? Exactly like staring out a window at a blue-green beachball.

I sleep lashed to the side of the privacy pod, cocooned within a million-dollar bedroll, which keeps me from bumping around. Apparently, bumping around is dangerous. Not every switch is foolproof. Apparently, I could accidentally touch a switch and trigger a catastrophe. A single knock could wrench this space station from its orbit and send it hurtling through the atmosphere at 17,500 miles per hour, aflame with a white-hot tail, to crater its wreckage on some point on Earth. A city somewhere in South America, I imagine. Or Europe, maybe. I lie awake, swaddled in my bedroll that slides and heaves on weightless waves, and think about the apocalypse. I like to contemplate the world’s terrible, awful end.

Because this wasn’t my ambition: I never gave a shit about space travel. I wanted to play football. Hah. Too slow, too heavy. But you knew that already, didn’t you, Dr Sharipov? All my stats on file. I needed the money. Lately, I’ve got to wondering why you people okayed me for this test flight. Was it to see what would happen to a big guy’s body? Well, you’ve learned that foot calluses peel off. What else were you hoping to find out? What else do you hope for me to shed?

Ground Control’s radio channel is dead. But you’re my psychiatrist and I’m obviously your lab rat, so there must be hidden microphones. I know you’re listening. As this space station twirls and spins, I know you’re listening to me. There must be hidden cameras in here too. Can you see my foot calluses, Dr Sharipov? Floating, yellowed strips of parmesan rind. Can you see the rest of me? All of me? I shucked my spacesuit a long time ago. My cock and balls bobble about, pale and goose-fleshed, so pathetic I can’t help but laugh. At blast-off, I had a crewcut but now my hair waves its overgrown curls like seaweed caught in the tide, and my beard is long and knotted. I’m so thin I can see my bones. Knobbly knees, swollen elbows. My hands and feet look too big.

And whenever the sunlight hits the porthole just right, the air inside this station reveals itself to be full of dust. On Earth, household dust is seventy percent skin cells. But what else is there to comprise the dust inside this station but skin cells? Perhaps spit. Phlegm. Snot. Every time I cough, sneeze, talk, sing, beg, shout, scream, I must release globules. They’re floating around me, thick as soup. I’m choking on the detritus of my own unravelling body. There’s more of me outside than inside by now. I piss down the vacuum pipe but since I ran out of plastic bags, my shit bobs around me too. These days, I don’t shit that often. After careful rationing, the food supply finally ran out today. My last meal was a tablespoon of rehydrated peanut butter.

Please, I’d like to come home. I’ve had enough.

What bothers me most is the teeth. Not my own teeth. The other volunteer and I couldn’t share this tiny space together without eventually going mad. But you knew that would happen, didn’t you? One of us had to go mad. I think it was him. I tore him to shreds and stuffed most of him in his bedroll. But his teeth keep drifting past my eyes, as well as little chunks of him that resemble foods like prosciutto and blobs of fig jam, making me both salivate and want to puke, so won’t you let me come home? Please? Or maybe I should flip a few switches. Try to crash this thing. But I don’t know what any of the switches do.

Dr Sharipov. Let me come home.

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About the Author

Deborah Sheldon

deb sheldon 200Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum. Some of her titles include the horror novels Body Farm Z, Contrition, and Devil Dragon; the horror novella Thylacines; the romance-suspense novella The Long Shot; and the collections Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories, and the award-winning Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work 2017”). Her short fiction has appeared in Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Breach, AntipodeanSF and many other well-respected magazines. Her fiction has been shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in various “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit her at <deborahsheldon.wordpress.com>

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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 265

Change Day
By Maree Collie

Corona Virus
By Daniel Mackisack

Crazy for Crab
By Kyosuke Higuchi - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Fate of the Nameless Child
By Alistair Lloyd

Livingstone
By Rudy Diaz

Lone Orbit
By Roger Ley

Same Journey Road
By Ben F. Blitzer

Sew It Is Said
By Michael T Schaper

The Big Able
By Shaun A. Saunders

The Origins of Magic: The Thief Who Slept, Died and was Dreamt
By Benny Thang

The Thief
By Kevin J. Phyland

The Touch of Her Hand
By D. Milne

To Our New Home in the Stars
By George Nikolopoulos

White Peach Village
By Umiyuri Katsuyama - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

The Contributors

marcus rockstrom 200Marcus Rockstrom (often known as Mac) is a writer and editor who has spent the last ten or so years bouncing between jobs for either profession as opportunity and circumstances have dictated.

For several years he was a content producer and editor of the online Games Magazine at The Australia Times, and has also done work in book editing, copywriting, transcription, articles and endless amounts of proofreading.

While professional work is rewarding, his true passion is found in the fiction of fantasy, sci-fi and other grand tales. As a lifelong nerd, it has ever been his desire to create the sort of stories that have enthralled him all through life.

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Zac Galfridus is a public servant who is lucky enough to be married with two daughters, been to Burning Man, seen himself on Rage, knows a few people who are currently working hard to save our civilisation.

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nancy cunningham 200Nancy M Cunningham is an aspiring writer who lives in Adelaide, South Australia with her family and several spiny leaf stick insects.

Nancy currently works as an agricultural research scientist and takes inspiration from science and nature to write across genres including crime and science fiction, historical, romance as well as short literary fiction.

She has been published in Tulpa magazine and in an anthology of short historical fiction ‘Easter Promises’.

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malena 200Malena Salazar Maciá was born in Havana, Cuba, where she still lives today.

A winner of multiple literary awards, she has authored several books, including Nade (2016), Las peregrinaciones de los dioses (2018), and Aliento de Dragón (2020).

Translated by Toshiya Kamei, Malena’s short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, The Future Fire, Mithila Review, and elsewhere.

Steve Bellavia was born and raised in Adelaide, but these days he can be seen trudging around Melbourne.

He has two kids, one wife, and zero pets.

Another one of his stories can be found at: <https://365tomorrows.com/2019/09/29/deicide/>

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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.

Colin has branched from non fiction to fiction.

If you liked this, check out his short story collections now on sale on Amazon Kindle: 100 Breaths (10 stories that occur in 5 minutes, the time it takes to breathe; you guessed it; 100 Breaths) and I M A G I N E (6 longer short stories about people getting what they want... or are they?)

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victoriachapman 200Victoria has worked in the metal manufacturing industry as an industrial chemist since leaving school but views those past 33 or so years as merely a stop gap until she figures out what she really wants to do when she grows up. She discovered the joy of words after encountering “Ode to Autumn” by Keats in 1985, and has been jotting down anecdotes, short stories and essays to amuse herself ever since.

A self-identified ‘nerd’ with an insatiable curiosity towards whatever attracts her attention, she also enjoys drawing, yarn crafts and learning new things. Victoria lives in Melbourne with her husband, son and too many cats.

This is her first formally published work.

deb sheldon 200Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum. Some of her titles include the horror novels Body Farm Z, Contrition, and Devil Dragon; the horror novella Thylacines; the romance-suspense novella The Long Shot; and the collections Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories, and the award-winning Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work 2017”). Her short fiction has appeared in Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Breach, AntipodeanSF and many other well-respected magazines. Her fiction has been shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in various “best of” anthologies. Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit her at <deborahsheldon.wordpress.com>

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eugene samolin 200After a decade playing music as a bass guitarist, Eugene Samolin turned his attention to writing in 2015. Shortly thereafter, a mystical revelation infused him with an abundance of creative juices. He’s been writing esoteric tales of fantasy and science-fiction since then.

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ed-erringtonFollowing two decades of working in the area of scenario-based learning (particularly speculative scenarios) within the university sector, Ed maintains an interest in Futurology. That is, evidence-based suppositions and theories about potential trajectories of humanity, science, technology and civilisation into potential futures. 

‘Download 505’ was inspired by a range of BBC articles on the advent of weaponised clones in military arsenals and their potential impact on humankind.

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ProfilePic 2Natalie has tried everything from Air Traffic Control to Zoology, but writing has been the one constant across all the years.

She had her first publication in Antipodean SF and can still remember the heady excitement of that first acceptance.

She is eternally grateful for that first flush of encouragement, and is proud to be one of the regular contributors.

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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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AntipodeanSF September 2020

ISSUE 264

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

Kindle version:

AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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 (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

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