By J. B. Polk

It was happening! Leila's nightmare was about to come true! The thing had finally managed to make its way into her abdomen, coiling around her intestines like a ten-foot viper and setting her pancreas and liver ablaze. She was sure light would soon spring out of her belly button! 

Her thoughts went back to that August day in 1995. Lunch was Welsh rarebit with roast potatoes followed by watermelon. Mom recited a Charles Simic poem as she slit its belly open, spilling its juicy blood and exposing the crimson flesh and black pips.             

Green Buddhas

On the fruit stand.

We eat the smile.

And spit out the teeth.

 Leila was on her third slice when Mom gently smacked her hand away.

“That's enough, sweetheart. You've had plenty of food already.”

Then, she added as an afterthought, “Did you know that if you swallow a watermelon pip, it can do some weird things and even take over your body?"

The image that popped into ten-year-old Leila’s mind was like a scene from a movie she had sneakily watched with her cousin Raymond — a horror called Alien, where a scaly creature laid eggs inside people's bellies, incubated, and burst out of their chests. 

She avoided eating watermelon altogether for a while, afraid the same thing might happen to her.

When she was in her teens, entered the age of reason, and decided she wanted to study quantum physics, she realised that her mother's story was just an old wives' tale. But apparently, the ideas our moms inadvertently put into our heads when we are kids tend to come around, and we can’t let them go no matter how hard we try. 

Despite her firm knowledge of how things worked in the real world, the fear of the watermelon-induced inter-belly invasion remained in the back of Leila’s mind whenever she ate a slice of that darned fruit. She tried to resort to her understanding of the principles of matter and energy to rationalise her fear. She told herself that the watermelon's juicy sweetness was merely a result of complex chemical reactions and that any notion of it invading her organism was purely irrational. Yet the "but what if…" lingered.

“What if Mom’s cautionary story holds a sinister truth? What if those tiny seeds, once ingested, unleash evil energy within me, slowly but surely devouring me from the inside out?” she thought, promptly forsaking her university training, and putting the rational side of her brain to sleep. 

The tray in front of her seemed to mock her, its cold, shiny surface reflecting her growing discomfort. The once-appealing meal, complete with a watermelon rind, now looked repulsive and threatening. She couldn't shake off the feeling that the pip’s electrons had already done a sneaky quantum leap without needing a superconducting electrical circuit and were about to unleash a grotesque transformation within her. The vision of her body transformed into a weird garden of tendrils shooting a blizzard of shimmering photons made her want to cram her fist into her mouth and vomit the offending pips.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are passing a zone of heavy turbulence. The captain has turned on the fasten the seat belt signs. Please remain seated until further notice." 

The flight attendant's voice rang urgent, but nothing compared to the panic dancing a roaring fandango in Leila's gut. She had always been a fearless flyer jetting off to conferences around the world,  but the announcement sent shivers down her spine this time.  As she settled into her seat, the dance macabre made her think that the worst-case scenario was not engine failure, hijacking, or even a crash but a watermelon performing physics-defying tricks in her stomach! 

The turbulence was now tossing the aircraft like a can of sardines someone was trying to tip into a bowl.  Around her, passengers gripped their armrests while the overhead lockers rattled, threatening to spill the luggage out. Leila was sure the next movement would split the plane open, and the machine and the passengers would rain down like metal and flesh confetti, accompanied by the sound of shattering glass and screams of terror. 

Soon, the inevitable would occur — the fruit would release its energy and take up all space. The belt already pinched her waist. She could almost see her stomach swell like it had been pumped full of helium. The buckle would pop off and smack the passenger next to her square in the face, gouging out his eyes. It was as if she’d downed an entire tube of Lax-a-Day. The pressure was unbearable. She knew she wouldn’t be able to hold it much longer before exploding and dripping blood and tissue all over the aircraft. 

It was hard to believe that out of all the weird things that could happen to her, she'd wind up as an involuntary experiment, proving that quantum leaps both in physics and genetic engineering were not always a welcome step forward. She'd soon become a human incubator for a watermelon! 

She squeezed her eyes shut when the violent quaking got harder and harder. 

"Miss! Miss!" the flight attendant standing beside her struggled to shake her awake. 

"Are you okay? We're experiencing some turbulence, but we'll be through it soon. Just hold on tight and try to stay calm."

And just suddenly, as it had begun, the bloating and the fear of a pip transmuting its energy inside her vanished. She was back in her seat, safely strapped, her flat stomach tucked into her skinny size-8 jeans, the turbulence subsiding.

"I have no idea what I could have named the watermelon infant. Perhaps Dolores… Dolores Beckett, like in the “Quantum Leap” TV series. I can bet it must be excruciatingly painful to give birth to a monster fruit," she chuckled as the loudspeakers spluttered back to life, indicating they were about to land.

rocket crux 2 75

About the Author

jb polk 11J.B. Polk is...

Polish by birth, a citizen of the world by choice.

First story short-listed for the Irish Independent/Hennessy Awards, Ireland, 1996.

Since she went back to writing fiction in 2020, more than 80 of her stories, flash fiction and non-fiction, have been accepted for publication.

She has recently won 1st prize in the International Human Rights Arts Movement literary contest and has just finished writing her first novel.

Issue Contributors

The AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50Our weekly podcast features the stories from recently published issues, often 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 Sunday evening at 7:00pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

Meet the Narrators

  • Laurie Bell

    lauriebell 2 200

    Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of "The Stones of Power Series" via Wyvern's Peak Publishing: "The Butterfly Stone", "The Tiger's Eye" and "The Crow's Heart" (YA/Fantasy).

    She is also the author of "White Fire" (Sci-Fi) and "The Good, the Bad and the Undecided" (a

    ...
  • Ed Errington

    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

    ...
  • Michelle Walker

    michelle walker32My time at Nambucca Valley Community Radio began back in 2016 after moving into the area from Sydney.

    As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognised it was definitely God who opened up the pathways for my husband and I to settle in the Valley.

    Within

    ...
  • Alistair Lloyd

    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 <...

  • Emma Gill

    Emma Louise GillEmma Louise Gill (she/her) is a British-Australian spec fic writer and consumer of vast amounts of coffee. Brought up on a diet of English lit, she rebelled and now spends her time writing explosive space opera and other fantastical things in

    ...
  • Barry Yedvobnick

    barry yedvobnick 200Barry Yedvobnick is a recently retired Biology Professor. He performed molecular biology and genetic research, and taught, at Emory University in Atlanta for 34 years. He is new to fiction writing, and enjoys taking real science a step or two beyond its known boundaries in his

    ...
  • Geraldine Borella

    geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. Her work has been published by Deadset Press, IFWG Publishing, Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge, AHWA/Midnight Echo, Antipodean SF, Shacklebound Books, Black Ink Fiction, Paramour Ink Fiction, House of Loki and Raven & Drake

    ...
  • Sarah Jane Justice

    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

    ...
  • Tim Borella

    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

    ...
  • Marg Essex

    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.

    ...

  • Mark English

    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

    ...
  • Sarah Pratt

    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

    ...
  • Juliette Cavendish

    juliette cavendish 200Juliette Cavendish was born in Liverpool UK and is of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Juliette has an interest in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science and writes in both Science Fiction and Contemporary Fiction genres. Juliette was fascinated with space as a

    ...