Worse Monsters

By R.E. Diaz

sfgenreThe loose wrappings at my wrist and neck flutter like flags of war in the wind. Hand over hand I turn and face the rocky wall of the precipice. I have to pull up; but my sinews do not remember how. I look down again and wonder if that too will be my end.

~*~

When the earthquake came, shattering the silence of my sleep, she was there. I awoke in the wrong place: not among gods but trapped in the darkness, pinned under the weight of fallen granite. And a child heard my cry. She risked getting crushed. Piece by piece she cleared the rubble. With the edge of a shovel, she broke the seal, opened the casket and pulled me out. 

As the earth trembled again, she gathered Xapi, Imsety, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef and held them close to her heart; and I understood when she said, “We need to go, hide deeper.” Her heart gave me the strength to crawl until the angry bellows were muted to a whisper by sand and stone. And there we waited and there we spoke. Her name is Elektra.

Why am I here?

“You are here for me,” she replied with certainty beyond her years. “I need you.”

Where is Nefertiti? 

Her face told me she knew the name but the words that took shape in her heart and then came forth said it all... She is gone, long ago. 

I tried to hide the pang of despair and the memories. But she too can feel my heart through the jars, the four sons of Horus. And she gasped at the sight: “She killed you?" 

That was not the plan. I turned aside. But I remembered again the thrust of the knife; in vain tried to hide the wound from this child.

“You saw her do it!” She shot back.

Nefertiti could not have betrayed me... willingly. I insisted.

Her eyes softened, and I saw in her heart that she understands the irrecoverable. Looking back at the way we had come, she nodded at my chamber somewhere in the darkness, and spoke again. “Hoping for love, all you found was betrayal. What kept you going on?”

I don't know.

“I think there’s a greater purpose.” She lit another one of the torches from her bag by striking its head, and tossed it on the ground to keep us company with its flickering light. And then she explained what the moving images in the tablet she carried testified. “Invaders.”

The scenes showed large vessels in the sky raining fire on great cities; roaring chariots on the ground striking back in vain. Like the Hyksos, I said. They subdued my forefathers, burnt cities, destroyed temples, and led women and children into slavery.

“These enslave the dead,” she said, “and set them loose to feed on the living.” 

Despair stirred in her heart when she spoke of the walking corpses, and I had to state the obvious, I too am dead.

“You are not like them, I know.” She swallowed and went on. “There are worse monsters. They came dressed in rags, dragging broken-down carts, asking for asylum. A horde of eaters, they said, was but a mile away. We had mercy and we were deceived. They were deserters, bearing weapons. They took over the compound and cast us out, families, friends: fodder for the plague.

“I escaped out the back. There were bridges from the old excavation to these caves... one of them is left. It can still support my weight. My dad and I — we dug here. I ran. I hid.”

What would you have me do, Elektra?

It took her a minute to reply. “Help me find my dad. He went to Cairo before the attacks started.” She said no more. She would rather let the weight of the loss smother her into a fitful sleep than utter the word revenge.

I found I could walk again, even if dragging a leg behind. So, I let the child sleep and tried the bridge, and it held. The compound’s doors were barred from within. But the scent of bitumen revealed a stock of large metal barrels by the side, and I knew how to draw them out. 

The plagued are clumsy and dull. And they can only smell the living. Even if stiff fingers wouldn’t work, my fists have always been strong. You have to crush their heads, she had said. 

Hidden by the darkness of the overcast night, I propped bodies of the twice dead at every window and side door: scarecrows. Then I rocked two barrels over to the front. Strips of windings from my arm served as wicks, one long, one short. I struck a torch into life, stuffed it into my right fist and lit the cloths, and then limped my way to the back.

The first explosion awoke them. Someone ran for a side door and stumbled back screaming under the weight of a falling cadaver. And the panic started. Only the back doors had no looming shadows of the undead. They were flung open. And I, bearing the only tame light in the madness, waved at them to follow me to the tall stanchions of the main bridge that once spanned the ancient river far below.

They came, in a stampede.

I meant to step away. But I’m too slow. And they ran like the cowards they... were, carrying me along.

Fingers that had held nothing for more than thirty centuries reached out in desperation, and grasped — what? Not a tree branch, branches don’t grow through rock. A root, yes, a root jutting out the side of the precipice, from the sycamore on the edge. 

Hoping for water, all it found was empty air. What kept it going on? “It had a purpose,” she would have said. “So it could be there for you.” Maybe she had been right. Maybe I was sent here for this child. 

~*~

How long can I cling? The second clap of thunder rocks the night: I hear more screams. The light of the torch I had held still flickers on the ground somewhere above me. They will seek it. 

There it goes. The last shadow crosses over me. The sudden vastness turns his howl into a whimper, and he falls, like the rest, to rock and water and death. Ammit has fed well tonight on liars, killers of orphans, encroachers of fields.

“Hold on.” I hear her; and she casts a snake over the side of the cliff. No, not a snake, a rope. “Grab it, I’ll pull you up.” 

How can she, she’s only a child? But the night roars, and the cloud of dust and smoke of bitumen explain. She has brought one of their roaring chariots to the edge of the cliff. And I stand again on solid ground. 

“Tuthmose, I thought I lost you.” She says no more and just clings to me, her arms encircling my waist. 

They are strong, for the arms of a child. 

They set me free.

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About the Author

Rudy Diaz

rudy diaz 200A Physicist in Engineer’s clothing, Rudy worked 20 years in the Defense Aerospace Industry, from performing Lightning Protection analysis on the Space Shuttle to the design of Radar Absorbing Materials. He then joined Academia as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, where for another 20 years he attempted to infect unsuspecting students with a love for Maxwell’s equations.

Since High School he has spent most of his free time either writing Science Fiction or trying to figure out how to make Science Fiction a reality. (His students' latest work has led to the realisation of efficient RF antennas that radiate using true magnetic (not electric) currents.)

His speculative fiction short stories have appeared in Residential Aliens, Ray Gun Revival, The Untold Podcast, and Antipodean SF. He blogs on the subjects of Science, Religion, and their intersection. The rest of his work is in the peer reviewed Physics and Engineering literature.

Rudy has also been involved in Jail Ministry for about 30 years. He and his wife Marcy live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Links: <https://rediazauthor.com/>

AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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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.

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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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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 279

The Gold Farm
By Nick Sheppard

Push Button
By Eric Farrell

Abject Offspring
By Chris Karageorge

CHAZ
By Rebecca Douglas

Establishing a Precedent
By Wes Parish

Fly Trap
By GA Thresh

I Just Wanted to Get to Titan on Time
By Kristina T. Saccone

Lady in Red
By Harris Coverley

Let Me Go (Honey oh)
By Catherine Rockwood

Meteorites Strike Twice
By Chad Bolling

scifaiku
By PS Cottier

AntipodeanSF November 2021

ISSUE 278

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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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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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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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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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

The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

The Contributors

Ben lives in Canterbury, New Zealand, and is currently completing an honours degree in English.

Having read and watched a variety of science fiction for as long as he can remember, the genre has worked its way into his writing and seems to have stuck.

This first publication is inspiring, and there will be more stories to come!

daniel mckayDaniel McKay teaches at Doshisha University, Japan.

He is no good at writing catchy bios, preferring instead to horse around and watch the world go by.

He neighs objectionably when politicians make asses of themselves, but, against the odds, does not believe the world is going to hell in a haybasket.

yukari kousaka 200Born in Osaka in 2001, Yukari Kousaka is a Japanese poet, fiction writer, and essayist.

Translated by Toshiya Kamei, Yukari’s writings have appeared in The Crypt, New World Writing, and The Wondrous Real Magazine, among others.

jack stanhope 200Jack Mackay Stanhope originates from Newcastle, New South Wales.

After graduating high school he joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Maritime Warfare Officer and passed through the Royal Australian Naval College in 2018. As of 2021, he is in his last year of studying a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Politics and Indonesian Studies at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

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chris karageorge 200Chris Karageorge is a lover, brother, son, neighbour and a keen observer of all things in sight. 

He reads, writes and cooks in his spare time and dreams of coffee darker than a moonless night. 

He is from Melbourne, Victoria and can be found walking his pug Monty during the weekends.

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rudy diaz 200A Physicist in Engineer’s clothing, Rudy worked 20 years in the Defense Aerospace Industry, from performing Lightning Protection analysis on the Space Shuttle to the design of Radar Absorbing Materials. He then joined Academia as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, where for another 20 years he attempted to infect unsuspecting students with a love for Maxwell’s equations.

Since High School he has spent most of his free time either writing Science Fiction or trying to figure out how to make Science Fiction a reality. (His students' latest work has led to the realisation of efficient RF antennas that radiate using true magnetic (not electric) currents.)

His speculative fiction short stories have appeared in Residential Aliens, Ray Gun Revival, The Untold Podcast, and Antipodean SF. He blogs on the subjects of Science, Religion, and their intersection. The rest of his work is in the peer reviewed Physics and Engineering literature.

Rudy has also been involved in Jail Ministry for about 30 years. He and his wife Marcy live in Phoenix, Arizona.

Links: <https://rediazauthor.com/>

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

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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botond t 200Sometimes I can see what others don't.

Sometimes I listen to the silence and Iknow there is way too much of it down here in the countryside.

All the trees grass wooden gates and sleepwalkers are letting me down.

Very rarely I go out to thefront yard in the night and look at the stars. And I can feel in my guts it is allgoing to sink down the drain.

I look at the photo of my nephew whom I have not seen for 5 years.

I look into the mirror and see my white hair at 45.

Then I stare at the cross on the wall and I want to puke.

Somebody has already decided for me in a nice kind of way.

Too many pieces of the puzzle missing.

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Bart Meehan is a Canberra writer who has published a number of short stories in publications such as Hello Horror, Aurealis and AntiSF. He has also had a number of radio plays produced for national community radio — now available as podcasts at <https://podcast11793.podomatic.com/> as well as stage plays performed in Canberra and Sydney Short and Sweet Festivals.

Bart recently published a novella called The Parting Glass, about the experiences of 5 men and women during World War 1.

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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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kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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