Soulmates

By Roger Ley

sfgenreMartin had never been comfortable being a boy. As a child he hadn’t enjoyed rough and tumble, camping, climbing trees or making campfires. His mother described him as ‘gentle,’ his father rustled his newspaper and tried to ignore him. He just didn’t fit the gender binary. The other boys derided him and occasionally beat him up. He was an easy target, being of medium height and light build. As he grew into his teens, he suffered the taunts of the football oafs, the noisy muscle-heads. He found it easier to spend most of his time alone in his bedroom. Thank God for the internet. He was still interested in girls but it was their makeup, their hairstyles, their nail polish, their clothes, their perfumes, it was all so self-indulgent, so narcissistic. It fascinated him.

Things were easier at university. Staff and fellow students were polite, everybody tried hard to be PC, more tolerant of gender identity issues.

He had always liked numbers but not for their own sake. He enjoyed making use of them and studied physics. He did his bachelor’s degree at Warwick and moved to Cambridge to do his master’s. That was where he met Estella.

Looking lost, she approached him in the college refectory. ‘Can you tell me the way to the Physics Faculty office?’ she asked. ‘I’m new here.’ She looked a few years older than he was with flaming red hair, blue eyes and nicely-dressed, classy but not too formal. There was something about her that captivated him.

‘Over there,’ he said, pointing vaguely. ‘Er, I’ll take you there, follow me.’ He was barely coherent as he took her to the faculty office.

A few days later he saw her in the refectory again. This time she was sitting at a table by herself. He took a deep breath and walked over with his coffee.

‘Do you mind if I join you?’

She smiled up at him. ‘My knight in shining armour, not at all, take a seat,’ she gestured at the one opposite.

‘My name’s Martin,’ he said.

‘You’re right, we haven’t been introduced, I’m Estella. You can tell me all about the place.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Who’s who in the faculty, the difficult personalities, the best places to eat, all that sort of thing. Local knowledge.’

‘Oh right, yes,’ he said. ‘So, you’re starting work here?’

‘Yes, I’m finishing my doctorate in particle physics.’ 

Martin was impressed.

They talked about everything he could think of because he was smitten and didn’t want the conversation to end. He’d never felt like this about a woman before. He didn’t know where the feelings were coming from.

Their relationship developed slowly. They met for a drink at one of the college bars several times, and eventually she invited him back to her flat for a meal. They went for walks or stayed in and watched films. It was during one of their Netflix evenings, as they sat side by side on the sofa, that Estella laid her hand on his thigh, then reached across to kiss him. She was tender, she stroked his cheek and led him to the bedroom. She left the lights off as they undressed, climbed into bed and made love.

‘The thing is, Martin,’ she whispered later as she snuggled into his back, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but I used to be a man. I had the hormone therapy and surgery several years ago. I should have told you before now, but there never seemed to be a good time.’

He laughed, ‘Well, you could say this isn’t the ideal time. Some people might be upset, but I don’t mind. I always knew there was something unusual about you, something exotic.’

He already knew a little about gender reassignment, but now he did the research, and as time passed and their relationship continued, he considered it for himself.

He’d experimented with makeup before he’d met Estella, and he’d sometimes dressed in ‘genderless’ clothing, but now he wore his hair longer and they had makeup evenings together. Martin helped her when she coloured her hair and was surprised to discover that she wore blue contact lenses. They talked about his gender reassignment, jokingly at first, but it soon became apparent that Estella was all in favour.

‘I know it would change our relationship but you’ll still be the same person,’ she said.

Estella was always sensitive about showing her body and preferred that they made love in the dark. He never saw her naked, she would wear a towel and shed it as she joined him in bed. In the mornings she dressed with her back to him. It was a foible, a peccadillo. He didn’t mind but wondered vaguely if she didn’t like her breasts or if she had some unsightly scarring.

He asked her about her work. She answered in generalities, speaking of Quarks, Leptons, Gluons and Photons, but never discussing the specifics of her research.

She laughed, ‘My sole purpose in life is to make you happy, Martin, to help you fulfil yourself.’

Estella worked for a different part of the Physics Faculty; it was housed off the campus in a building on an industrial estate a few miles away. He decided to visit her one day. As he walked up the access road, he noticed that all the windows on the ground floor were covered by steel shutters. There were security guards in the reception area, and they would not let him into Estella’s laboratory without the right pass. They telephoned her and after some time she came out to speak to him. He thought she looked severe in her white lab coat and glasses.

‘I’m afraid it’s just not possible for you to come inside, Martin. You need clearance.’ She leaned forward and whispered, ‘It’s a government contract, Martin, they’re completely inflexible.’ She kissed him on the cheek and went back into the laboratory. As he was leaving, one of the guards apologised.

‘Sorry, love,’ he said, and Martin detected no irony in his tone. He smiled to himself as he walked away, the hormone therapy was working better than he’d realised.

A few months later he finished his master’s degree, and they celebrated at the local Balti house. They drank too much, and had a nightcap when they got back to her flat.

‘What do you think about time travel, Martin?’ Estella asked him groggily as they lounged on the sofa.

‘I’m not sure,’ he said. ‘Is it possible?’ Estella leaned over and kissed him, cupped him gently, murmured something incomprehensible and led him into the bedroom.

He woke up early next morning. The weather had been hot, and Estella was still asleep, lying naked on her back with the covers thrown off and her face turned away from him. He sat up and stared at her. She had an appendectomy scar three inches long, below and to the right of her navel. He had one that looked just the same, so did lots of people he supposed. It was the birthmark that bothered him, at the top of her left thigh, a port-wine stain shaped like Africa. He had an identical one of those too. As he pulled the sheet over her, she turned towards him and opened her eyes.

‘Sorry, Martin,’ Estella whispered, ‘we have to break it off.’ She got up and began pulling on her clothes. ‘I can’t keep coming back to your time every evening, my boss has started to question the energy drain.’ She finished dressing and picked up her handbag. ‘The surgery won’t be too painful, so try not to worry about it.’ She leaned down and kissed him, then stood up and opened the bedroom door.

‘Goodbye, Martin. Be good to yourself,’ she said gently as she left.

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About the Author

Roger Ley

roger ley2 200Roger Ley enjoys writing in a variety of speculative genres.

This story is from his anthology, 'Dead People on Facebook'. His other books include, ‘Chronoscape,’ a science fiction novel about time and alternate realities, ‘The Muslim Prince: What if Diana hadn’t died?’ an alternative reality, techno thriller and ‘The Steampunk Adventures of Harry Lampeter.’ Harry is an irreverent James Bond type of character, an iconoclast and anarchic urban adventurer. Basically, he’s a lot of fun.

Find Roger at: <https://rogerley.co.uk>.

Roger’s Amazon author page: <https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01KOVZFHM>.

His YouTube playlist: <https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHDmc8dxD57cPaMnsYfuJhQIirRohnaWY>.

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 264

Anna's Mother
by Vicky Chapman

Antitheosis
By Marcus Rockstrom

Human Cruelty
By Steve Bellavia

Jesus the Man
By Eugene Samolin

Morpheus Rising
By Kevin J. Phyland

Myopia
By Malena Salazar Maciá - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Nothing Unusual Happened on the Way to the Office
Colin L. Howe

Rubicon
By N.M. Cunningham

Shedding
By Deborah Sheldon

Single Journey - Multiple Travellers
By Ed Errington

The Circle of Gods
By Botond Teklesz

The Last Message
By Zac Gilfridus

The Contributors

daniel veron 200Daniel Verón started writing at the age of ten, and an early story of his was selected for a UNESCO anthology, but he also spent a lot of time researching "space issues" as he was growing up.

He subsequently formed the Enigma Group of Investigation of UFOs and other Mysteries, which for many years produced radio programs on different topics and today owns collection of sci fi sagas, fantasy and terror stories plus essays on scientific topics and the world of the future.

Daniel also gives talks on the sci fi genre and exhibits books at various book fairs. He was recently credited as the creator of "cosmological sci fi" based on discoveries in the field of quantum physics coupled with philosophical speculations to give an explanation of the origin and end of the universe.

matthew legge 200I am a fan of horror movies, architecture, poetry and art. My hobbies include collage, drawing and sometimes building miniature model houses.

I enjoy writing short stories in my spare time with ‘Planet MXCIV’ being my first of this genre.

It has been a fun process writing in this style and I look forward to seeing what I can create in the future.

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Sarah Jane Justice 200Sarah Jane Justice is an Adelaide-based fiction writer, poet, musician and spoken word artist.

Among other achievements, she has performed in the National Finals of the Australian Poetry Slam, released two albums of her original music and seen her poetry and prose published in Australia and internationally.

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Nick Lee's favourite authors include Frank Herbert and Roald Dahl. He enjoys reading many genres. He tends to write short sentences. He is a fan of Oxford commas and single spaces after periods. He always, however, defers to editors' preferences. Those preferences are likely on display in this brief biography. Nick's creative writing style is influenced, for better or worse, by his experiences writing opinion pieces, business briefs, and academese.

 

Ben F. Blitzer penned his latest story, “Otherworldly Matters,” shortly after dreaming it in its entirety.

His most recent contributions for AntipodeanSF were “Dear Friends” and “The Darkland Crier.” He lives in Western Australia.

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roger ley2 200Roger Ley enjoys writing in a variety of speculative genres.

This story is from his anthology, 'Dead People on Facebook'. His other books include, ‘Chronoscape,’ a science fiction novel about time and alternate realities, ‘The Muslim Prince: What if Diana hadn’t died?’ an alternative reality, techno thriller and ‘The Steampunk Adventures of Harry Lampeter.’ Harry is an irreverent James Bond type of character, an iconoclast and anarchic urban adventurer. Basically, he’s a lot of fun.

Find Roger at: <https://rogerley.co.uk>.

Roger’s Amazon author page: <https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01KOVZFHM>.

His YouTube playlist: <https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHDmc8dxD57cPaMnsYfuJhQIirRohnaWY>.

ishmael soledad 200I've read and watched sci-fi all my life and I thought it was time to give back instead of just taking.

My stories have appeared in Aphelion, Antipodean SF, Far Cry Magazine, Planet Web Zine, Schlock! Webzine, Short-story.me and Unrealpoloitik!

I have published two short story collections — Hawking Radiation, and Sex and The Single Cosmonaut — and I am currently working on my first novel due for release later this year.

You can connect with me on Twitter <@Ishmael_Soledad> or my blog at <https://ishmael-a-soledad.com/>

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George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Athens, Greece, and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His short stories have been published in Galaxy's Edge, Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, Grievous Angel, Helios Quarterly Magazine, Unsung Stories, Best Vegan SFF, The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF, Bards & Sages Quarterly, Havok, SF Comet, Mad Scientist Journal, Truancy, Digital Fiction QuickFic, The Centropic Oracle, StarShipSofa, 600 Second Saga, Antipodean SF, Manawaker Studio's FFP, Fifty Flashes, 9Tales from Elsewhere, Event Horizon 2017, and many other magazines and anthologies.

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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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Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances; his favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert. He lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist..  "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"

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david-scholesDave has written over 250 speculative fiction short stories. Some of these are included in his nine collections of short stories (all on Amazon). He has also published two science fiction novellas and been published on a range of speculative fiction sites. Including: Antipodean SF, Beam Me Up Pod Cast, Farther Stars Than These, 365 Tomorrows, Bewildering Stories, the WiFiles and the former Golden Visions magazine. His latest work “Contingency Nine and Other Science Fiction Stories” was published in October 2019 and he is currently working on another collection of science fiction short stories as yet unnamed.

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Shaun Saunders lives at the beachside suburb of Merewether, in Newcastle, NSW. He particularly enjoys Asimov's Foundation universe, and stories from the 'golden age' of SF. He is a regular contributor to AntipodeanSF, and winner of 2003 & 2004 AntiSF awards, and the inaugural 2005 SFSSC. His novel Mallcity 14 has been favourably compared with both 1984 and Brave New World.

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AntipodeanSF August 2020

ISSUE 263

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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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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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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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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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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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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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>

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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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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

If your God is everywhere, if He is always watching, why should your people make houses to go to worship Him? Faced with an all-seeing, everywhere-being God, I would think what is needed is a place to hide.

Tad Williams, Caliban's Hour

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