I pull over onto the shoulder of the desert highway. The county Sheriff is waiting for me.
He rolls down his window and points into the desert as I walk over. “Tracks go that way.”
“You’ve got good eyes, spotting them from the road.”
“Family in a minivan called it in.”
“They saw it cross the road?”
“Just a blur. Moving too fast.” The Sheriff takes a sip of his coffee. “Look, this county’s crawling with UFO spotters and cryptozoologists. Don’t encourage them. It’s probably just some college kids pulling a prank.”
“College kids. Right.” I’ve had some dealings with college kids recently. They don’t have the initiative to drive out here, much less the determination to make miles of tracks through the desert.
I sling my water bag onto my back and head out, following the tracks. The footprints are far apart, meaning the creature has impossibly long legs, or it was moving impossibly fast. Or both.
The Sun is out in full force, and I haven’t covered too many miles before a third of my water is gone. Standard procedure says to turn back: one third for the trip out, one third for the trip back, and a third in reserve in case I get lost. I look at my own footprints. There’s no wind. I should be able to follow them back. I press on.
I take another break when my water is half gone. I drank a lot of orange juice at breakfast, so I factor that in. I press on.
I know it’s time to turn back when my water bag is empty. But, what if the creature is right over the next dune? How crazy would it be to turn back now? It will be night when I walk back, so I won’t sweat much. I press on.
I’m feeling dizzy, so I sit down on top of a dune. I can hear each of my heartbeats as my head throbs. I just need a few minutes of rest. I’ve been in tougher spots than this.
I spot movement. The creature’s purple-crested head pops above the top of the next dune, and its saucer eyes stare right at me. It speaks two words that I can make out, “meep meep”, followed by a series of sounds no human tongue could replicate. It disappears in a cloud of dust.
If I make it home, I’m getting on ACME.com and ordering some trapping equipment. I’m going to capture that creature if it’s the last thing I do.
OK, you might be wondering why I’m reviewing stories from September 2016. That’s an indication of how far my blogging has gotten behind my reading. I plan to read some more recent Perihelion stories once I’ve finished some other reading projects. Leave me a comment if you’re a regular reader of Perihelion SF.
Breeding Season by Sean Mulroy. Some far-future humans, biologically different from us, gather together to mate (no explicit sex).
Personal Artifacts Lost by Marilyn Martin. Aliens captured Earth, weakening humans partially with legalized drugs, and partially with teleporters used by all the go-getter types to save time, which gradually sabotaged the users’ minds and bodies. Story is pretty heavy with infodumping.
Lover’s Moon by Ronald Ferguson. Lunar rebels launch rocks at Earth. Plenty of opportunity for tension in that scenario, but it never materializes.
When It Comes Around by Auston Habershaw. A space pirate story, with some tension in the action, and a fun pirate-slang language. The story reflects the short lifespan and bleak prospects of many real-life historical pirates. Back in February, I considered nominating this story as the best of 2016.
Buddy by Nolan Edrik. An advanced AI crash-lands on the moon. There is no explicit mention of religion in this story, but I felt that some of its behavior was devil-like. It would be equally valid to simply see it as purely amoral survival programming, though. I also considered nominating this as the best story of 2016.
Shuffleboard on the Hubble Deck by Iain Ishbel. A man takes a cruise on a space liner, which isn’t quite what it seems.
This Perilous Brink by JT Gill. A man flies around in space and tells the reader about his marriage and erectile dysfunction, then returns to his destroyed base to show that he’s been babbling insane nonsense the whole time.
Only a Signal Shown by LE Buis. A slow-colony ship has to make a first contact decision.
Thunder Lizard. A woman does a godzilla impersonation on a holodeck, then feels bad about the tiny virtual people she stomped.
Blue Harvest by Andrew Woodyard. Whalers in space. [How many of you are big enough nerds to sing the “Whalers on the Moon” song from Futurama?]
Heat of the Night by Gareth Jones. On a planet where the universe is hot and the sun radiates cold, trees are mobile and graze on stationary animals.
I hope you enjoyed my Roadrunner-themed intro story. Little known fact: my stage name, back when I used to work in the ‘toons, was Wiley Coyote. Roadrunner always got the chicks, but he was nothing without me. Nothing!