By Kindle Light

By Jessica Nelson-Tyers

sfgenreMy baby girl hadn’t been sleeping well, so if you’re wondering whether I’d been burning the candle at both ends, the answer is yes. At both ends and from the middle. I was pieces of disconnected string swimming in a pool of beeswax. But tired isn’t the same as mad; it doesn’t explain what happened.

Leigh had been up and down all night with a fever topping at 39, so we’d gone through the usual: do we take her to hospital, does she have a rash, do you think she’s in pain?

The storm was tipping trees and washing out roads, so we weren’t keen to travel. That seems trivial now.

The power went about eight o’clock. The house was lit by a paparazzi of lightning flashes and a few candles that Andy had found by fumbling through the laundry cupboard. In the end, we gave Leigh some Panadol to drop her fever and decided to take her to the doctor in the morning. I put her in her pink summer wrap, the one with embroidered daisies. She dropped into a deep sleep.

I tried to return to sleep myself, but there was no chance. I kept getting up to feel Leigh’s forehead — gently so as not to wake her — and each time it was a furnace against my palm. I shivered even in my dressing gown, but the unheated air was doing nothing to cool Leigh. I watched her taking breaths for a while then left to read while my Kindle’s battery lasted.

I was starting to drift when I heard Leigh cry. I increased the backlight on the Kindle to illuminate the black-hole hall. I stubbed my toe in my rush to comfort her. I was still limping, skip-and-hop, when I reached her bedroom door and stopped short. I exhaled sharply, as though I’d been punched in the gut. Someone was in my daughter’s room.

I turned the Kindle to shine on the intruder. She was about my height and shape, but she was dressed in weird clothes, and despite the dim light I could see her ears were wrong. Weird shadows played over her face. She was holding Leigh in her arms; my little girl was arching and crying.

I didn’t want to make any sudden moves: the woman was cornered and I didn’t want to push her into hurting Leigh. I stood still and clenched my hand so tight that the nails cut.

‘Put her down,’ I said. My eyes were stinging with rage, but I kept my voice low.

She didn’t reply at first. She kept her eyes on me and fiddled with something in her right hand. It occurred to me that it might be a knife. Leigh was slung in the crook of the woman’s left elbow, facing outwards, tiny legs kicking. She screamed louder. ‘Please don’t hurt her,’ I said. I was breathing hard, trying to keep it together. ‘The police are on their way. Just put her down and get out.’

She ignored the lie. She held the metal object in her right hand up to her mouth and chanted into it. Not English. I don’t know what it was. Her voice was rough and breathy, like mine when I’ve cried.

I called to Andy, but again not too loudly. I didn’t want to set her off. Andy had been up and down earlier, but I’d told him one of us should get some rest and he’d taken me at my word. He didn’t hear, didn’t come. I crept a few paces closer to the woman. She motioned to me to stop. I hesitated.

She kept her eye on me as she edged to the wall behind the cot. There was no window there, or I might have run to snatch Leigh. She’s so small, I was picturing a hundred ways the woman could damage her before I could reach them. I kept talking, quiet and soft, saying I’d get help for her and it would all be okay, things like that, anything I could think of. I kept the Kindle’s glow on her and inched forward.

The woman touched the metal object to the wall. The darkness of the room and the night seemed to concentrate on that spot, pooling to the size of a door. She laid one hand on the thick-barred cot, just for a moment. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I lost mine.’

I moved faster. I got close enough to light up her face properly and saw how close our features were. She could have been me, with different hair, different clothes, warped ears. She seemed to be leaning into the wall. That’s when I realised what was happening. She was leaving. She was getting away with Leigh.

She turned her back on me and slid into the pool of blackness, like a body sinking under water. I screamed, as much in anger as fright. I dropped the Kindle and jumped across the room, but she was already gone. I slammed into the wall and tore at the paint, shrieking obscenities, but it was over.

Andy must have heard that because I heard him call to me, heard him stumble down the hall. I kept throwing myself at the wall, shouting out some garbled version of what had happened, but Andy ignored me and ran to the cot. He grabbed up the soft, swathed form that lay there and rushed it to the lounge room, where candles threw a stronger light. He sobbed harshly.

I tried to explain that Leigh was still out there, but he didn’t understand. He called an ambulance and said his daughter wasn’t breathing. His words somersaulted with mine. He tried CPR, pressing and pumping the little cold chest. He wouldn’t listen.

The baby looked like ours, but my Leigh never had a purple wrap like that, and this baby’s ears weren’t like Leigh’s. They were all wrong.

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About The Author

Jessica Nelson-Tyers

jessica nelson tyers 200Jessica Nelson-Tyers has a Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing and a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy). She likes to scribe the spooky, sinister and startling, and writes for both adults and kids. She’s been previously published in Breach magazine and the First: Undertow anthology. Jessica is an Andromeda Spaceways Association member and co-edited Andromeda Spaceways Issue #67. She resides just beyond the borders of Eden, where snakes are the main form of wildlife. In this dimension, Jessica has two young daughters. As far as she knows, neither is a changeling. You can follow Jessica on Twitter <@JessNelsonTyers>.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 236

Australia, A Story
by Ovidiu Bufnila

Castle Bridegroom Bear
by Michael Richards

Decrypted Message Thread
by Theodore Irvin Silar

Non-Event Horizon
by Kevin J. Phyland

Satisfaction
by Nicholas Sheppard

The Traveller
by Robert David

The Twelve Moments
by Eugen Samolin

Upstairs
by David Scholes

You Can Always Change The Past
by George Nikolopoulos

You Can't Always Get What You Want
by Wes Parish

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AntipodeanSF February 2018

ISSUE 235

Speculative Fiction
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ISSN 1442-0686

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AntiSF Narration Team

 

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.

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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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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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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>

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laurie bell 150Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She spent years writing and making audio plays with her sister using an old tape player. Life is a performance! She is a singer and has performed on stage once for her local theatre company. Now she helps out as a volunteer. She loves to read her stories out loud to anyone who will listen. She has recorded several audio readings of her own short stories here at Antipodean SF and is now a member of the audio team.

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

Laurie's debut book The Butterfly Stone will be published in Autumn (Aus) 2018 and another titled Blood Fever will be published in Winter (Aus) 2018.

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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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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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SF News

SF News

AntiSF Author Eugen M. Bacon Publishes Two New Anthologies

Antipodean SF author Eugen Bacon has published two new speculative fiction anthologies:

Dying & Other Stories, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13195-dying-and-other-stories.htm>. Literary speculative fiction that offers up death. Dirges that cross genre.

Thirteen Wicked Tales, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13148-thirteen-wicked-tales.htm>. A collection of literary speculative fiction by Fiction4All

Congrats AntiSF Author Laurie Bell...

Laurie Bell is set to have two new novels published in 2018. One is an adult sci-fi noir thriller novel "Blood Fever" through Incendia Books, and the other is a young adult urban fantasy "The Butterfly Stone" from Wyvern's Peak Publishing.

ASFF Supports The Swancon Short Story Competition 2018 - Entries Now Open

Swancon 2018, the 57th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, is running a short story competition with the support of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. More information at the Swancon website. Theme: Transformation

For more SF news why not join the ASFF and get the ASFF newsletter “The Instrumentality” delivered straight to your inbox!

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Walker Stalker Convention: Walking Dead convention The Dome at Sydney Showgrounds. 3-4 February 2018 and 10-11 February 2018 Melbourne Showgrounds. <http://walkerstalkercon.com/sydney/>.

Confurgence 2018: Furry convention 23-25 February 2018. Amora Hotel Riverwalk, Melbourne. <http://ausfancons.com/confurgence/>

Swancon 2018 (Natcon): Pan Pacific Hotel, Perth. This is the 2018 Australian National Convention: “Transmogrification”, (Easter) 29  March to 02 April 2018 . Guests: Kameron Hurley, Ryan Griffen, Barb de la Hunty.  More information: <http://swancon.com.au/>

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention – will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>

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

AntiSF will be at the National Convention, Swancon (2018).

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.

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Niven's Law: There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.

Larry Niven