Issue 293

By Laurie Bell

Each day I examine the “pictures” that come back from the new space-located telescope. It’s larger and has far greater range than the old James Webb. Though “picture” is a generous, rather simplistic term for what I spend my days examining. In reality, it is just numbers. Numbers that cascade across and down my computer screen. Ever changing, always moving. Endless numbers. To some, it is nothing but gibberish. To me, it is magic. I’m looking at solar giants, quarks, pulsars and distant spiral galaxies. The computer is able to put the numbers into pretty, picturesque forms so that the masses can “ooo” and “ahh.” My magic is that I can look at the numbers and see the picture inside my head. I’m the first one who gets to see these images. It is an honour and a privilege.

Everyday I am in awe of the power of nature.

I’m looking back in time. How many people can say that?

So you can imagine my jolt of fear when one day the numbers don’t make sense. I lower my tea cup from where it has frozen in front of my lips and shift my body closer to the screen. “That doesn’t look right,” I mumble.

I work alone. Most people find this work incredibly tedious. So there is no one in the room to hear me.

The numbers are wrong.

That’s my first reaction.


But how can they be wrong? The numbers change constantly. I stare and the feeling is overwhelming, washing over me in increasingly greater waves. It leaves my head spacey and my body aching.

Something is wrong.

I stand up. Perhaps I’m just tired. I’ve stared at these numbers for days — months — without break.

I close my eyes and rub hard at the chilled skin of my cheeks. Get a coffee. Go for a walk. Fresh air and caffeine is what I need.

I lock the door after me and head down the three flights of stairs that lead to my office tucked away at the rear of the science building. I do it to get the blood pumping. After all, I sit all day. That must be why my body aches. As I step out through the stairwell exit I’m hit by a blast of frigid air. I should have brought my coat. I head to the park. It’s a lovely day despite the cold. The sun is shining and the ground is dry. A gentle breeze brings the scent of coffee and sugar to my nose and I make straight for the cart greeting the barista with a smile.

“Nice day, ey?”

“Oh yes,” I agree and nod my thanks as he places the takeaway cup on the counter. With great reluctance, I return to my office. I don’t feel particularly rejuvenated but I do feel more myself. Yes. I clearly needed a break. I unlock the door and return to my desk, sipping the hot bitter brew in tiny increments. I jiggle the mouse to activate my screen. The numbers are still wrong.

There’s a seven that should appear right there. But it’s … a zero.

And a five also becomes a zero.

Then a three becomes … a one. My mouth drops as I stare at the screen. Zeroes and ones.

Zeroes and ones. Shit.

I scramble for my translation program. Zeroes and ones. Computer language.

How is this even real?

I’m gasping in the silence of my office.

I don’t understand.

Sweat has broken out over my skin. I swipe my finger beneath my nose and rub the cold dampness off on my trousers. I lean forward, as if the numbers will change if I can get close enough.

Computer language.

Someone, something is speaking to me.

Could this be a prank?

It must be.

My heart pounds as I wait for the translation to appear. When it does it is with little fanfare and I almost miss it.

We are coming.

Wait? What?

I jolt back, spinning my chair across the linoleum floor.


My hands tremble.

With a sharp move I switch the computer off at the wall.

I wait, frozen in the middle of the room, as if expecting something to suddenly happen.

After a few minutes I laugh at my paranoid behaviour. It’s just a prank. Someone must have hacked my computer.

I decide I am finished for the day. I’m obviously not getting any work done. I’ll deal with this silliness tomorrow. I flip off the lights and I close the door, locking it shut behind me. I take off down the corridor.

The lights above me flicker. I freeze.


They are coming.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

lauriebell 2 200

Laurie 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 Stones of Power Series via Wyvern's Peak Publishing: The Butterfly Stone, The Tiger's Eye and recently released, The Crow's Heart (YA/Fantasy). She is also the author of 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). Her latest new release, Boss From Hell, is an Australian supernatural mystery, with a dash of comedy a hint of horror and a touch of romance.

You can read more of her work on her blog <>.

Look for her on Facebook: <> Twitter: <@LaurienotLori> and Instagram: <@writerlauriebell>


Issue Contributors

The AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50Our weekly podcast features the stories from recently published issues, often 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: 

Meet the Narrators

  • 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

  • Juliette Cavendish

    juliette cavendish 200Juliette Cavendish was born in Liverpool UK and is of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Juliette has an interest in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science and writes in both Science Fiction and Contemporary Fiction genres. Juliette was fascinated with space as a

  • 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.


  • 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

  • Sarah Pratt

    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

  • Sarah Jane Justice

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

    Among other achievements, she has performed in the National Finals of the Australian Poetry Slam, released two albums of her original music and seen her poetry

  • Mark English

    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

  • Carolyn Eccles

    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 —

  • 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

  • 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.


  • Ed Errington

    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

  • Alistair Lloyd

    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 <...

  • Emma Gill

    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

  • Barry Yedvobnick

    barry yedvobnick 200Barry Yedvobnick is a recently retired Biology Professor. He performed molecular biology and genetic research, and taught, at Emory University in Atlanta for 34 years. He is new to fiction writing, and enjoys taking real science a step or two beyond its known boundaries in his

  • Michelle Walker

    michelle walker32My time at Nambucca Valley Community Radio began back in 2016 after moving into the area from Sydney.

    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.