First Contact

By Harris Tobias

sfgenreWhen the last alien died, we all cried. We put his poor tiny body in a shoe box and buried it in the field behind the tree house with the others. At one time there were five of them. We found them in the ruins of their ship in that very field. I remember how we were roused from our summer torpor at the sound of the crash. The smoke and fire brought us running.

Billy Jordan was the first to spot the wreckage and the scattered crew. By the time we saw it, it looked like so much rubble; like one of those crushed cars down at the junkyard and just about the same size. One by one we found the bodies of the ship’s crew. They were not much bigger than my sister’s rag doll except their skin colour was grey-blue and their heads were overly large for their small bodies. We gathered them together and knelt over them with wonder and apprehension. I remember we were squeamish about handling them.

 “They could have alien cooties,” Alan said.

This got us to step back from the bodies for a while. Finally Charlie, whose father was a doctor and fancied himself one too, stepped forward and lifted one tiny arm. 

“What are you doing?” Billy Jordan asked.

“Feeling for a pulse,” Charlie said. Charlie performed the same routine on each body. When he lifted the last little arm he said, “This one’s still warm.”

“What the heck does that mean? Is it still alive? Why isn’t it moving? Should we get help?” We all blurted out these questions at once,

 but who we were asking no one could say.

“He’s alive but probably in shock,” Charlie said and no one doubted him since his father was Dr. Lawrence who took care of us all our lives. “We’re going to need to keep him warm. We’ll need a blanket and something to keep him in.

“What about these others?” I asked, gesturing toward the four dead aliens. I went home and got a spade from the garage. Alan found an old blanket and Billy brought the shoe box. Then we dug a shallow ditch and laid the dead aliens in it. Alan said a few words like a preacher which made us all giggle as we all bowed our heads. We filled in the hole and marked it with a cross Billy made from a couple of sticks and some string. 

“You think they’re Christian?” I asked.

We wrapped the surviving alien in the blanket and placed him gently in the box. Then we carried him up the rope ladder and into the tree house. We sat around waiting to see what would happen. After almost half an hour we got bored. The alien was breathing but still unconscious.

After a while the conversation drifted around to school. Fifth grade was going to start in a week and we were secretly excited and relieved. It had been a long summer and we were pretty bored with the long hot days with nothing to do. Billy made a crack about Alan being excited to see Alice Kelly and made kissing sounds until Alan couldn’t take it anymore and hurled himself at Billy. As they rolled around wrestling, one of them kicked over the alien’s bed and he rolled out onto the floor. He might have rolled through the trap door and fallen the twenty feet to the ground below if I hadn’t caught him.

The alien groaned when we put him back in his bed. 

“He’s in pain. He could have a broken bone somewhere,” Charlie said. Charlie began to poke and prod the alien who groaned periodically. Eventually the alien opened his eyes and peered at us. He had curious eyes, pale yellow with vertical pupils like a goat’s. He appeared dazed and frightened. He looked around and studied us much as we studied him. After a few minutes he fell back and appeared to sleep, his chest rising and falling rhythmically.

We spent the rest of the afternoon planning what to do with the visitor as we started calling him. First we all agreed that it was to be our secret and ours alone under pain of death, double-pinky swear. Next we all agreed that we should keep watch to make sure he didn’t escape or, even worse, get carried off by a raccoon or something during the night.

The tree house was to our minds an impregnable fortress. It was high off the ground with a trapdoor and a rope ladder providing the only entrance and exit. The trapdoor had a lock on the inside, and with the ladder pulled up we considered ourself totally girl proof.

There were four of us and since we often slept over in the tree house, doing it again was no big deal as long as we told our parents. We agreed to split the guard duty, two on and two off. Billy and Charlie went home to get their sleeping bags. I waited with Alan until they returned. When they arrived, Alan and I took off for home as it was getting late, and I didn’t want to get grounded.

I had a hard time sleeping that first night. I was so excited. My god, a real live alien, a crashed spaceship. It was every ten-year-old’s wet dream. What a perfect end to the summer. What a story we had. Would anyone believe us?

In the morning I bolted down my cornflakes and ran all the way to the tree house. When I got there I gave the secret call and Billy lowered the ladder. “How’s our visitor?” I asked.

“He’s resting comfortably,” Doctor Charlie said. 

I went over to look at our visitor. He was conscious and looked better — at least to my eyes. He was speaking in a language we couldn’t hope to understand. 

“He’s been going on like that all morning,” Charlie reported.

“He must be trying to tell us something,” I said.

“Well, duh,” said Billy. “The question is what?”

“Maybe he’s hungry,” Alan said. “Anybody bring any food?” 

We scrounged up some crackers and a piece of an old apple, and Charlie offered it to the visitor. We watched him examine the food, smell it and drop it on the floor untasted. We tried again later with a piece of Alan’s peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, and, after I ran home for lunch, a piece of my tuna salad on rye. The results were the same, the visitor didn’t recognise any of it as food.

By the second day we began to worry. The visitor hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. Billy brought a turkey baster from home and we tried squirting some cherry Kool-Aid into his mouth. He choked, sputtered and spit it out. We tried Coca Cola, Mountain Dew and orange juice, but the visitor rejected them all. He was a sticky mess after that, so we threw some water on him and wiped him down with Alan’s hanky. The poor little guy looked miserable.

By the third day it was obvious that the visitor was dying. He’d stopped babbling and his weird goat’s eyes looked glassy. Charlie, who had borrowed his dad’s stethoscope, said our patient was in serious trouble and was definitely going to die unless we intervened and did something drastic. 

“Like what?” Alan asked.

“We need to get food into him. I heard my dad talk about putting food directly into a patient. It’s called inter-vee-nious or something.” Charlie had obviously been giving this some thought because he pulled a big hypodermic syringe from his pocket. We were very impressed. We all wanted to save our dying alien and watched fascinated as Charlie ground some of the stale crackers and bits of sandwich into a jar with some orange juice. We took turns shaking the mixture until it resembled a muddy sludge. Charlie let it settle and sucked some of the liquid into the syringe and turned his attention to the patient.

“We need to find a vein,” Charlie said.

“Do aliens even have veins?” I asked, but no one had an answer for that. The visitor was still breathing but his breaths were noticeably faster and shallower. We examined his little doll’s arms for a vein. Billy found a faint line running down the back of one arm and Charlie said that was it.

“Here goes,” Charlie said and he stuck the needle in and pressed the plunger. Almost immediately the alien began thrashing around. He emitted a high pitched scream and flailed around some more until finally he lay still.

“I think we killed it,” I said.

“My God we’re murderers,” said Alan.

“Is it murder if you kill an alien?” asked Billy. We had no answer for that, but just in case, we huddled together and agreed to bury the alien next to his companions and never ever mention the episode to anyone, ever. We all took a solemn oath and carried the poor dead thing outside. We were all crying by then but I couldn’t explain exactly why.

A day or two later, school started and the lazy days of summer faded into memory. Word of our experience with the visitor was never mentioned both out of fear of how the adult world would react and the realisation that no one would believe us anyway.

That was sixty years ago this summer. The field where we buried the aliens is long gone. It is a suburban housing development now. The old tree house is gone as well as are those boyhood chums I shared it with. I am the last witness of humankind’s first contact and the tragic fiasco that followed. Looking back on how things played out, I have to say it doesn’t bode well for the future of our space-faring race. If there is one lesson to be learned from this sad story it would be to hope that none of our brave astronauts encounter any ten-year-old boys or their alien equivalent.

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About the Author

Harris Tobias

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>

In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 288

Blue Moon
By Harris Tobias

Fido, the Cat, and the Capsule
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

Three Eight Two (part one)
By Andrew Dunn

Yoni's Potential
By Greg Foyster

Maurice
By Salvatore Difalco

Daddy's Always Right
By Chuck McKenzie

An Irregular Ode to the Loch Ness Monster
By Michael Leach

Tantalise
By Jared Bernard

The Hideous Deed
By Fulvio Gatti

Review - Not Death VR (Version 3.1.007)
By Rodney Sykes

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 August 2022

ISSUE 287

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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George Lucas, Star Wars

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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

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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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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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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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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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

Former Aussie former music journalist, now working in media Payroll and moonlighting as an author.

Fantasy and sci fi are hands down her favourite genres, both to read and write after she got the writing bug after reading the Discworld series as a kid, and Sir Terry remains her favourite author of all time.

When she's not writing, she loves hanging out with her family watching Star Trek or sport to relax.

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Roger Wang is a senior currently working towards his philosophy and media studies degree at Rutgers University.

His appreciation of things equally Kafkaesque as they are sublime is what drives his interest towards the speculative fiction genre.

He has been published at 365 Tomorrows.

jessie atkin 200Jessie Atkin writes fiction, essays, and plays.

Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Flock Lit, Writers Resist, Daily Science Fiction, and elsewhere.

She can be found online at <jessieatkin.com>.

Zach writes speculative fiction in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

You can find some of his short stories at <https://medium.com/@zachary-deinreisch>.

brian mahon 200Brian Mahon is a former cook, lab technician, submariner, and now-and-then writer.

He splits his remaining energies seeking knowledge, fighting age, doing laundry, and writing as a creativity relief valve.

He can be reached both on Facebook <@MahonMiscellany> and through his website, <www.mahanimalism.net>.

Bryan Keon Cohen 200Bryan is a writer, activist and retired-barrister based in Melbourne, Australia. He appeared in the High Court in significant constitutional, native title and refugee matters including the Mabo litigation, Bryan has published numerous legal articles, and the book "A Mabo Memoir" (2013).

Bryan’s insightful and engaging fiction has been published in Australia in Woorilla (2010), Idiom (2019), StylusLit (2019), Antipodean Sci Fi (2020), and in the UK, Bandit Fiction (2018).

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deb sheldon 200Deborah Sheldon is an award-winning author from Melbourne, Australia. She writes short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum.

Some of her titles include the horror novels Body Farm Z, Contrition, and Devil Dragon; the horror novella Thylacines; the romance-suspense novella The Long Shot; and the collections Figments and Fragments: Dark Stories, and the award-winning Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories (Australian Shadows “Best Collected Work 2017”).

Her short fiction has appeared in Quadrant, Island, Aurealis, Midnight Echo, Breach, AntipodeanSF and many other well-respected magazines. Her fiction has been shortlisted for numerous Australian Shadows Awards and Aurealis Awards, long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award, and included in various “best of” anthologies.

Other credits include TV scripts, feature articles, non-fiction books, stage plays, and award-winning medical writing. Visit her at <deborahsheldon.wordpress.com>

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ed-errington

Whenever he can, Ed likes to listen to people’s interactions — in real-life and/or through the media. Taking overheard conversations as a starting point, he then attempts to create what interactions might follow — regarding plot, character and motivation. 

Ed believes that what people say, and how they say it helps define their character; this notion transcends status, class, accent, race, and gender. Note Ed is not a spy. The stint he spends on eavesdropping real-life situations is severely constrained by the time taken for his coffee to get cold. 

His following spoken piece — ‘Like’ — was inspired by the beginnings of a conversation he overheard ‘twixt two young teenagers while awaiting the arrival of his auspiciously affordable affogato.

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Tony Owens is an ESL teacher living in Brisbane with his wife and son.

His short fiction has appeared in the anthologies In Fabula-Divino, Zombies Ain’t Funny,18, Darkest Depths and Andromeda Spaceways Magazine 2017’s Best Stories.

He is a proud member of the Vision Writers Group and his ultimate ambition is to find the literary sweet-spot between H.P. Lovecraft and P.G. Wodehouse.

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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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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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