Tantalise

By Jared Bernard

sfgenreA ping on my phone reminds me that I still have a phone. At the sound, a vagrant glances over his shoulder, interrupted from burrowing through trash. Odds are low that he’ll kill me for my phone, but there’ve been reports. Something about the man’s oily coat is disturbing — the heat is almost unbearable during the day; I don’t know how he stands it. Without missing a beat, I carry on toward home, if you can call it that. The sunset casts a warm glow on the red-roofed apartment buildings poking up several blocks away behind a wall of desiccated trees. People who have everything figured out must live there. Maybe those apartments aren’t as fancy as the ones down in Tongzilin, but they’re still palaces compared to my sad hole. And soon I won’t even have that.

Above those apartments loom the high-rises and industrial complexes of Deyang, bluish in the milky haze fluoresced by the sun’s low angle. Now I’ve visited most of them, banging on doors, begging for favours. Gazing at those high-rises, I nearly trip over that stupid satellite dish, the one I’ve passed every day on my way home from work down in Chengdu. When I get off at my bus stop in Jingyang and head up South Lushan, I know I’m halfway home when I see it. It’s so outmoded, probably fell off someone’s apartment aeons ago.

Somehow it reminds me that my phone pinged. Undoubtedly it’s my family wondering where I am. For months I’ve dodged their messages with dread because I can’t explain that I’ve failed them. How could I? How would I tell them about the plant closing down? Maybe they’ve already read about it, if they’ve scrolled past news of other closing businesses. But they don’t know about microprocessors, how in order for me to solder chips with magnifying lenses strapped to my eyes there needs to be a supply of tantalum, how the world’s reserves of coltan dried up decades ago and since then we purified the remnants into tantalum until they too were gone, how I wasted years becoming an engineer, how I’ve come to Chengdu to make money sixty years too late and the tech industry is now as eroded as this forgotten satellite dish. How could I possibly expect them to understand?

The hazy sky has become a dismal slate grey, finally offering cooler air. Ahead is a brick apartment building with white trim, one of many capped with yellow water catchments — which looked so odd to me when I first arrived from Junlian to earn a living. My building is three blocks beyond that, in the neighbourhood laced with vestigial telecom lines. Once there, I’ll be encompassed by my problems, my money evaporated, no ideas left.

Storefronts line the street, most of which are dark and vacant, and of those remaining few have turned on their signs. The effect is striking as the daylight extinguishes because the black windows reflect scant lights despite the emptiness within. In a tank outside a hole-in-the-wall market is a little octopus for sale. Its legs curl up and suction to the Plexiglas as if hiding from predators in its barren enclosure.

Streetlamps phosphoresce and there’s a small resurrection of life: pedestrians and mopeds. Up ahead some middle-aged men are ranting, ironically under a blue sign that reads “Have a Stellar Day!” One yells something about getting fired and wanting revenge. As I attempt to drift by undetected, my phone pings again and my diaphragm clenches. I forgot it’s set to give a second ping after an hour. Without pausing to see if they heard — how could they not — I slip around the corner into a narrow stairwell under a halogen bulb. Leaning against the brick wall, I rummage through my bag for the phone just so I can turn it off before it gets me stabbed. Waking up my phone, I find a message on my wall, but it isn’t from my family. It’s from the United Nations. My brow furrows and my eyes strain from the brightness of the screen. This must be junk. There’s no reason such important organisations would message someone like me.

Then it hits me; when my company started shrinking two years ago, I got nervous and applied to a program. The Mission for Humanity, I think it was called … I forgot it was connected to the United Nations. They were looking for people with special skills to be part of that thing that’s been all over the newsfeed, that spaceship that’s supposed to set up a colony on another world many light-years away. Help people escape environmental destruction! It’s a big deal, humanity’s first interstellar voyage, and it pays a ton because the occupants can’t return for quite some time.

A wild sensation jolts through me. Being a pioneer on this voyage… it would be unbelievable. There would be plenty of money for my family back home, more than enough. This would solve everything! All the barriers I’ve faced in this unforgiving world… I can almost see a crack jetting across them, and a geyser bursting through from an unknown reservoir. It would be unbelievable. I tap the message.

“Thu 30/01/2098 18:08 (1 hour ago)

“Application Number: 1000265076

“Dear Zhixiong:

“Your application for the Mission for Humanity was evaluated. We regret to inform you that you were not selected …”

I turn off the phone. Through a restaurant window I glimpse a lone man eating what looks like dan dan noodles. I would give anything for some dan dan noodles right now. The man looks my way and I dart my gaze downward.

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About the Author

Jared Bernard

jared bernard 200Jared Bernard’s fiction has appeared in Morpheus Tales, and his non-fiction has appeared in The Conversation, Natural History, History Today, and American Forests among others. As a PhD candidate studying insects, he has also published in scientific journals.

Jared’s debut literary/speculative fiction novel, Killing Juggernaut <https://www.killingjuggernaut.com>, predicts a dire future in which the fates of an ecologist, a teenager, and an astronomer are linked by humanity’s last-ditch effort to save itself from environmental devastation.

“Tantalise” is a mini companion story to Killing Juggernaut.

In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 289

Company Man
By James R. Coffey

Dusk Patrol
By Kevin J. Phyland

Martian Food
By Robbie Sheerin

Sociology 101, Lesson Six
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

Superman
By Elizabeth Broadbent

The Eternity Library
By Chris Gladstone

The Sparrow Maker
By Tee Linden

Three Eight Two (Part Two)
By Andrew Dunn

Turning on the Light
By John Bohr

What I have to say about the supersize oceans of the exoplanet C59034
By Ranju Mamachan

Winter's Sky
By Callan J Mulligan

Scifaiku
By PS Cottier

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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AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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Please consider joining the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, a prime supporter and promoter of speculative fiction down-under.

<https://asff.org.au>

AntipodeanSF September 2022

ISSUE 288

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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SF Quote

There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places… We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future. In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues, reality.

Arthur C. Clarke

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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

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 

The Contributors

rodney sykes 200Rodney grew up in country South Australia and later in Adelaide but now lives and works in Melbourne.

He works principally as an IT consultant and dabbles in creative writing in his spare time.

He enjoys writing poetry as well flash fiction and often reads his work at the Melbourne Writers Group meetings.

Rodney is currently unpublished but hopes to change that in the near future.

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jared bernard 200Jared Bernard’s fiction has appeared in Morpheus Tales, and his non-fiction has appeared in The Conversation, Natural History, History Today, and American Forests among others. As a PhD candidate studying insects, he has also published in scientific journals.

Jared’s debut literary/speculative fiction novel, Killing Juggernaut <https://www.killingjuggernaut.com>, predicts a dire future in which the fates of an ecologist, a teenager, and an astronomer are linked by humanity’s last-ditch effort to save itself from environmental devastation.

“Tantalise” is a mini companion story to Killing Juggernaut.

fulvio gatti 200Fulvio Gatti is an Italian speculative fiction writer been writing and publishing in his native tongue for 25 years.

He has been writing in English for the global market since 2018, and his stories can be found in pro magazines, like Galaxy’s Edge, magazines and anthologies published in US, UK, Italy, and Australia.

He’s been a student of Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s Superstars Writing Seminars and he is part of David Farland’s Apex Writing Group. He’s also been a panelist at Worlcon/Discon III, among other international events.

He lives with his wife on the wine hills of the Northwestern Italy, where he works as a local reporter and event organizer.

Website: <https://www.fulviogatti.it>

chuck mckenzie 200Chuck McKenzie was born in 1970, and still spends much of his time there.

He also runs the YouTube channel 'A Touch of the Terrors', where — as 'Uncle Charles' — he performs readings of his favourite horror tales in a manner that makes most ham actors look like Gielgud.

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michael j leach 200Michael J. Leach <@m_jleach> is a writer and academic who lives in Bendigo on unceded Dja Dja Wurrung Country.

Michael enjoys writing about science. His science poems reside in Meniscus, Rabbit, Cordite, Consilience, Science Write Now, the 2021 Hippocrates Prize Anthology (The Hippocrates Press, 2021), and elsewhere.

He has published a sci-fi short story in Painted Words 2017 (Bendigo TAFE, 2017) and penned two science-themed plays performed by Bendigo Theatre Company.

Michael’s poetry collections include Chronicity (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020) and Natural Philosophies (Recent Work Press, forthcoming in November 2022).

You can read more about Michael’s work on his website: <https://mleach11.wixsite.com/writing>

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greg foyster 200Greg Foyster is a writer, illustrator and author of the memoir Changing Gears, currently living on Wadawurrung country at Geelong.

His stories and cartoons have appeared in The Age, The Saturday Paper, ABC, Meanjin, Eureka Street and others.

His fiction has appeared in Overland, The Big Issue, Aurealis and AntipodeanSF.

Website: <www.gregfoyster.com>

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andrew dunn 200Andrew writes science-fiction and fantasy from the state of Maryland on the eastern coast of the United States, often drawing ideas from jogs through forest trails at sunrise or a tasty beer at sunset. 

Andrew writes each story with the goal of giving readers something they will enjoy, without relying on the typical, predictable, or cliche'. His work has previously appeared in AntipodeanSF, 365 Tomorrows, and soon Daily Science Fiction

When Andrew isn't writing chances are he's playing guitar or bass, exploring abandoned places, or spending quality time with a bulldog. Andrew hopes you enjoy this story, and he will continue to try and write stories that you'll love to read! 

salvatore difalco 200Salvatore Difalco is the author of two story collections, Black Rabbit (Anvil) and The Mountie At Niagara Falls (Anvil).

He currently lives in Toronto Canada.

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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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kj hannah greenberg 200KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing with words for an awfully long time. Initially a rhetoric professor and a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar, she shed her academic laurels to romp around with a prickle of imaginary hedgehogs.

Thereafter, she's been nominated once for The Best of the Net in poetry, three times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for poetry, once for the Pushcart Prize in Literature for fiction, once for the Million Writers Award for fiction, and once for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. To boot, Hannah’s had more than three dozen books published and has served as an editor for several literary journals.

Find out more at her website: <http://kjhannahgreenberg.net/>.