Wrong Turn

By Paul Sheringham

sfgenreI was wrong, I was wrong from the start.
you could die out here from a broken heart.
David McComb 
Lonely Stretch, Born Sandy Devotional, The Triffids.

--

He’d taken a wrong turn seven miles back. 

Hs last taste of civilisation was the “fuck off” yelled at him by a stoned inhabitant inside the Aboriginal co-op building on the main street of Muluna: a tiny town tipping over the precipice of an infinity of nowhere. 

The road led to a long-abandoned farm and hanging shed — where he often retreated with his guitar and enough alcohol to become numb enough to forget; to submerge from reality. 

The red dirt road looked well used for 30 kilometres. He followed small signs: the rusted car wreck a few miles in, the change from salt hardpans to dunes with toothpick multi-stemmed mallee. Every mallee, each saltbush and samphire claypan on this road he knew like familiar quiet sentinels. He drove it on autopilot. 

A slight shiver of unease rolled up his spine, causing him to surface into his uncomfortable reality. Something had changed. This stretch, with the lowering sun before him, was disconcertingly unfamiliar. 

He doubled back. The road took a slight turn and there was a left fork he hadn’t spotted earlier. A kilometre in, the road narrowed until the sides of his 4wd were being scraped by broom bush, dense and crowding. He ran over small saplings growing in the ruts. 

He turned the ute around after a thirty-point turn, hoping his radiator wouldn’t be punctured by saplings. Fear sobered him; woke him into circling angry voices that descended like a veil of regret. How had he become lost on a road he knew so well?

Not a soul on this lonely stretch. You could die out here and never be found. Weeks before any local or traveller passed by, perhaps as lost as he was. Emptiness echoed with the uneasiness. 

The fuel gauge had dipped below 3/4, still enough to get to the farm and back. 

Still plenty of whisky and beer and iced-water warming in the boot. The Gretsch acoustic guitar propped up on the back seat. 

***

He’d tried every substance under the blinding summer sun. They couldn’t drown the paralysing thoughts that played out in his mind on high rotation as tawdry soap operas and courtroom dramas. Him on trial. His accusers dotting the gallery, fingers pointing out his every failure. Page-long suicide notes that no-one would read. Lyrics about lifeless flotsam tossed upon the beach. The best songs came out of fear and pain, little nuggets of truth from the white noise. It took a toll on his mind and body.  Prozac had never led him to the truth. 

His body was a vessel to create words and worlds describing his lack of a place in this cold universe. A number-one single was not his dream. That was the pressure record companies exerted and the fickle music press wrote about. His band was a failure. He dreamed of creating words, songs and art. To dig out the awful truth and beauty in words and lyrics. The banality of rock stardom was not his dream. 

Then there was the book of poems hidden in his apartment “please publish if found”. That was his dream — hell yes.

He veered through a bend, skidding on shards of red stone. A silhouetted figure stood by the roadside, her wavy long hair burning in the backlight. He fishtailed over a deep wheel rut, correcting the oversteer. When he looked again, she was gone. 

***

The last blinding and confusing sideway rays of the sun flickered through dense roadside mallee. The black closing in, he pulled to the verge. The cold of the descending desert night seeped through the rusted car floor. Wind shrieked across the mallee scrub.

Her voice on the wind, “Why lover? Why did do it?”

He fingered the silver St Cristopher medal dangling low; her memory still burnt deep into his chest.

The voice of Mandy, Tash or Alice. All the names, the faces of strangers that blurred into none. The ones who got too close and wanted to ask about his past or had questions about future-plans. He had none — words, songs and art wouldn’t pay the mortgage.  

Women loved him, his intelligence, piercing blue eyes, his aloofness. His tall frame, long curly hair and baritone voice. He loved them too, but he loved  the instant pleasure of a bender even more. He had no trouble starting relationships, but they always left him in the end, often bitterly. The lovers who had wanted to see something good in him, the ones that deserved the love he couldn’t give them, when inside him seethed only an angry, dark pit of nihilism.

He slept lightly on the back seat, the rifle close to his side. Her sweet warmth beside him, her breath breezing softly down his arm. His arm reached out to touch her; found emptiness.

No one to dress him, feed him, drive him home. No lover to lie together with on the cool sand.

He dreamt of his parents, holidays down the coast. Estuary mud oozing between his toes, flies hovering over the scratches on his knees. The piercing summer sun always blinding, skin peeling off burnt shoulders. Trying to sleep in the dry heat on clean white bed sheets. Dreaming of her heat next to him, legs entwined.

Snatches of music came to him. Explosions of pedal steel guitar — a crescendo building like a wild dog howling in lust and pain, singing for flesh and retribution. Spare ringing of vibes. Jangling metal percussive notes sparking off shards of ironstone and the endless rusted lines of broken barb-wire fences. 

He was woken in the dark by something moving out there in the dead heart, a nightmare, gigantic and loathsome. The nightmare he was running from, all the wrong turns he’d made. Nowhere to turn, except to face it. So far from home. How had he become so lost?  He’d taken a wrong turn, and now there was no way back. 

***

He’d slept through the dawn chorus of birds again. If there was a such a thing in this desolate place. 

The back of his mouth was dry. Surfacing from sleep, coughing and dry retching on phlegm, he grabbed a bottle off the back seat and gulped the still-cool liquid down. The familiar numbing spread to his fingers and aching temples. 

Suffocate the pain. Don’t surface into reality.

He opened the car door and took a step or two.

The weight of his thoughts was like concrete boots. He fell to his knees and coughed up a wordless blind pain and rage. The red sand was soon wet with it.

He drove on. The road was flat, gun-barrel straight. Red sand plains with no distinguishing features in any direction.

The horizon quivered. A willy-willy traced a sand funnel across the plain.

Heat haze swirled ahead on the gravel, forming a metallic, oceanic mirage. Up ahead there was a change in the flat topography. The horizon shifted and melted. A wide outcropping range skittering with movement, spread out from east to west, horizon to horizon. Pulsing, emerging, spreading wings mountain ranges wide. Raging bush fire fronts kilometres long broke out atop birthing wings. 

No escape forward, only fear turning back. He took one last swig from the whiskey bottle and threw it to the passenger side floor. He shifted the Falcon up into 4th and sped toward the loathsome entity, lining her up through a crack in the door.

A monstrous, ugly flaming bird, no way around it, under it, or over it; only straight through to the other side. 

Fight not flight. His eyes filled with spite.

“Take me now, I’m not afraid to die,” he shouted, the car engine screeching.

The ravens took a moment to look up from picking clean a festering kangaroo carcass to glare with cold, dark eyes at the madman screaming out the window of the rusted white ute headed towards oblivion.

He’d taken a wrong turn.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

Paul Sheringham

paul sheringham 200Paul Sheringham lives and works in Coffs Harbour, as a species project coordinator for several threatened plant species.

He has his renewed passion for field botany in recent times, a recent stroke having limited his ability to run marathons. He hopes to publish a flora field guide of the Gibraltar Range National Park.

A proficient bathroom guitarist and singer, he has been learning several Triffids songs, and learning about their brilliant lead singer David McComb, which has influenced his story “Wrong Turn.”

aus25grn

AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

ASFF logo 200

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.

aus25grn

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.

aus25grn

In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 259

A Tale of Tyl Feánn: In which a child is conceived
by steve duffy

Brillo
By Zebuline Carter

Bums Off Seats
By B A Keon-Cohen

Fallen Angel
By Alistair Lloyd

Onement of the Teleman
By Conor Ross

Procreation Privilege
By Steve Bellavia

Qantas Flight 2134
By David Scholes

Recall
By Ishmael A Soledad

The Stinging End
By Tara Campbell

The Waker
By Phil Wallach

Turning Test
By Roger Ley

The Contributors

terry persun 200Terry Persun’s poems and stories have appeared in many magazines including Wisconsin Review, Kansas Quarterly, Riverrun, Rattle, Hiram Poetry Review, Bluestem, NEBO, Cirque, Eclipse, Bacopa, and many others.

His poems have appeared in six, chapbooks and five collections.

He was recently included in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology for sicnce fiction and fantasy poetry. He is also a novelist and has recently won first place in the Book Excellence Awards for science fiction.

Terry speaks at writers’ conferences and universities across the country. <www.TerryPersun.com>.

josh bealson 200Joshua Bealson is a Washington, DC-based bilingual and bi-cultural author, gardener, and traveler.

He seeks to help people discover a world outside their own through fiction, cross-cultural narratives, history, and stories about our place in the world.

He was the Hugo Awards Ceremony Director at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki & Worldcon 77 in Dublin.

He Tweets <@joshuabealson>.

 

marcel gherman 200Marcel Gherman was born in 1978, in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. Since the age of 15, he has published over 100 articles and essays in the press in Moldova, and for over a decade has had regular columns in cultural magazines Sud-Est Cultural and Contrafort. Between 1994 and 2003 Marcel hosted weekly shows on electronic music at Radio Moldova — and makes his own music under the pseudonym Megatone. 

Mr Gherman currently works as secretary in charge ofthe magazine Sud-Est Cultural, and writes prose and essays in his native Romanian language. He is a member of the Writers Union of Moldova, the Writers Union of Romania and of the International PEN Club.

He is two-times winner of the Writers Union of Moldova Award —for "Debut", 2012, and at the category Books for Children and Youth, 2015, the City Hall of Chisinau Award for Youth in the category Literature, 2012, and the Publishers Union of Moldova Award 2015.

Published books: "Cartea viselor" (The Book of Dreams), Arc Publishing House, 2011; fantasy short fiction "Generatia Matrix" (The Matrix Generation), 2013; essays "Cer albastru deasupra Arcadiei" (Blue Skies Over Arcadia), Prut Publishing House, 2014; science-fiction novel for teenagers "Universuri paralele" (Parallel Universes), Stiinta Publishing House, 2017, (includes science-fiction modular novel Multiverse, darkfantasy novel "Last Testament of the Kingdom of Nirgalia", and the collection of fantasy short stories "Tales from the Realm of Pandava").

James Stothard has loved fiction since he was a child and used to read all day if he could get away with it.

Now he spends much of his time coming up with fantastical characters and creations such as the time-looping Two of Three King, the labyrinthine Weirdways, and the dimension warping Umbra Engine.

He hopes to one day become a professional writer and share his ideas with the rest of the world.

conor ross 200Conor Ross is a student and avid traveller.

He is either studying literature in Melbourne or else somewhere else on the planet teaching English as a second language.

A great fan of being useless he finds literature to be the most agreeable way of ignoring life.

aus25grn

Maree Collie loves the idea of Flash Fiction. So much to say in such alittle space. She also dabbles in short stories, monologues and plays.

Maree has had pieces published in anthologies, a play performed in 2018, and a monologue slated for performance October 2019.

She hascompleted a BA in Professional and Creative Writing at DeakinUniversity.

brenda anderson 200Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in various places including ASIM, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She lives in Grange, SA, and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops.

aus25grn

susan cornford 200Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia, with pieces published or forthcoming in 50-Word Stories, Akashic Books, Antipodean Science Fiction, CarpeArte Journal, Ghost Parachute, Medusa’s Laugh, Speculative 66, Subtle Fiction, Switchblade, The Fable Online, The Gambler, The Vignette Review and The Were-Traveler.

She considers herself an emerging flash writer.

aus25grn

paul sheringham 200Paul Sheringham lives and works in Coffs Harbour, as a species project coordinator for several threatened plant species.

He has his renewed passion for field botany in recent times, a recent stroke having limited his ability to run marathons. He hopes to publish a flora field guide of the Gibraltar Range National Park.

A proficient bathroom guitarist and singer, he has been learning several Triffids songs, and learning about their brilliant lead singer David McComb, which has influenced his story “Wrong Turn.”

aus25grn

nicholas sheppard 150x150Nicholas Sheppard is a software engineer and academic based in Wollongong, New South Wales. He has read science fiction and fantasy since encountering The Hobbit in primary school, but somehow found himself writing tedious articles on information security at university. For lighter reading, he has written on the history of science for Cockatrice, on science fiction and economics for Aurealis, and fiction for AntipodeanSF.

aus25grn

steveduffyhusband, father, brother, son
poet, writer, artist, friend (et al.)
the list of pigeon holes
into which I fit, is endless

aus25grn

AntipodeanSF March 2020

ISSUE 258

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

rocket crux 2 75

Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

Kindle version:

Poetry

By Terry Persun

Billions of bytes of data pass
            through the ships cables
            the electronics hardware
            for decades or centuries.

We’re all encased in pods
            of treated and frozen stasis
            waiting for the opening door
            to allow us to live again.

Without a thought we agreed
            and were sent away forever
            wishing to be the first
            to find something new.

Yet everything could end early
            a mistake in programming
            parameters changing
            one small glitch.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

Terry Persun

terry persun 200Terry Persun’s poems and stories have appeared in many magazines including Wisconsin Review, Kansas Quarterly, Riverrun, Rattle, Hiram Poetry Review, Bluestem, NEBO, Cirque, Eclipse, Bacopa, and many others.

His poems have appeared in six, chapbooks and five collections.

He was recently included in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology for sicnce fiction and fantasy poetry. He is also a novelist and has recently won first place in the Book Excellence Awards for science fiction.

Terry speaks at writers’ conferences and universities across the country. <www.TerryPersun.com>.

AntiSF's Narration Team

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>

old style mic flat 25

david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

old style mic flat 25

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.

old style mic flat 25

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) 

old style mic flat 25

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.

old style mic flat 25

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>

 old style mic flat 25

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>.

old style mic flat 25

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, and is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

old style mic flat 25

SF News

Upcoming Cons

Continuum 16 All Possible Futures 2020. Melbourne’s annual SF Convention is set to run over the extended weekend of June 5 to June 8. “All Possible Futures” will be held at Rydges on Swanston. Memberships and more information at <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

WorldCon 78 2020 ConZealand, 29/07/2020 - 02/08/2020 Wellington, New Zealand Worldcon 78 in 2020 is to be held in Wellington, New Zealand, on 29 July – 02 August 2020. Antipodeans, mark it in your calendar now — and the rest of the world, well, it’s time for you mark it in your calendars too, to visit the other side in 2020. Facilities for the event include TSB Arena and Shed 6, the Michael Fowler Centre and the Intercontinental Hotel. More information is on offer at the official website of ConZealand <https://conzealand.nz/about-conzealand/>. AntipodeanSF's editor, Nuke, will be at ConZealand!

Conflux 16 2020 Visions of Time will explore the future of the speculative fiction industry over three days from 3 to 5 October 2020 at the Rex Hotel, Canberra. More information here <https://conflux.org.au/>. AntipodeanSF will be at Conflux again this year. See you there...

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF <asff.org.au>.

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

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke

Get Dimension 6

D6sidebar

Get Dimension 6 Speculative Fiction

From Coeur De Lion Publishing

Here at AntiSF
Download D6 Now!

"Trust me, you want this free speculative fiction e-zine."
(Rob Hood)