The Light of Distant Fires

By Evan James Sheldon

sfgenreThe boy is in a wide field, so large he can’t see beyond the yellow grass that rises to his waist and ripples like the sea. He is trying to make a bow and arrow with a stick and some twine but he’s struggling because his fingers have turned into claws. They look like bear claws but he’s no claw expert. He’s just a boy lost in a wide field and he misses the soft padding and dexterity he used to possess.

He doesn’t remember growing claws, only that he didn’t have them before when he was sitting in the trees with his father, then he did after his father grew hungry and sent him into the wide field to hunt for their dinner; his fingernails now sharp and strong, digits shortened and thick. It’s as if entering the field caused the claws to grow. The boy’s father said he would prepare a fire and that the boy should return with fresh meat before it burnt out. Once it burnt out, his father would move on, needing to find his own food, and the boy would be alone.

But now, the boy can’t get the bow and arrow to work, and he isn’t even sure he could kill something if the bow was properly strung. He imagines shooting an animal and then chasing it while it bleeds, what he must do if he is to eat it. But he doesn’t want to be alone in the trees so he sits down and lays the bow across his lap, the tips of the grass wavering above his head, and he takes his time. If he focuses, breathes slow and deep, he can almost do it.

Once, his mother took him to climb a tall tree. She made it to the top with ease, but the boy had struggled, slipping and beginning again over and over. She didn’t laugh when he fell, only cocked her head to the side, a sad half-smile on her face; a look that suggested to the boy she knew he wouldn’t be able to make it to the top but had hoped. His mother had strong wings, and sharp talons, but the boy had never noticed them until she leaped into the sky and flew away. After, the boy attempted to keep climbing—focused, breathing slow and deep—and he had made it to the top only to discover he was too afraid to leap as she had.

So now in the tall grass, he keeps on trying again and again, moving slower and slower until the sun sinks low on the horizon and he is barely moving. He hears a gentle rustling nearby, not like the wind, too localised and rhythmic, and finds another boy sitting, hidden by the tall grass, trying to sharpen a spear. The other boy has claw-hands too and can’t control his knife, fumbling it and swearing, spear tip still blunt.

The boy with the almost-bow scans the wide field and what he had first taken for rustling wind, he now understands is many sitting boys, though none sit together.

Is your father hungry too? the boy with the almost-bow asks.

The boy with the almost-spear nods. I don’t want to go back to the trees without something. He looks down. My father is not kind when he is hungry.

The boy with the almost-bow nearly comforts the other boy—he too knows how hunger manifests itself in an already harsh man—but his claws aren’t built for consolation, only for violence. As he tries to find words to give instead, a prong-horned antelope struts by, eyes glossy and unaware. The sun sets and though light still floods the field, it is a different light; one that shows the outlines of things, highlighting where one thing ends and another begins, and the boys with claws stare at the prong-horned antelope’s edges, a moving suggestion of itself, a cutout against the horizon.

The boy with the almost-bow shakes his head in dismay, wishing he had more time, more ability to craft a weapon, and then jumps as behind him something roars. It’s not a proper roar, like a lion or leopard or hippo, but an imitation. One boy, claws shining in the fading light, has begun to yell and chase the prong-horned antelope. It isn’t a strong yell, or regal, but it is wild—a feral sound—and something stirs in the boy with the almost-bow. The boy with the almost-spear rises.

All around them boys with claws stand, yell out their version of the roar and drop their poorly made weapons. They give chase and the boy with the almost-bow joins them, casting aside his stick and twine. He doesn’t notice that his face has turned into a muzzle, that his bones are restructuring, that patches of dark hair now cover his once smooth skin. He is too invested in the chase to notice.

And he doesn’t see the fires blink out among the far trees, doesn’t care that come morning he will be alone again, despite what it feels like now, in the heat of the hunt. He doesn’t wonder what would have happened if he had leaped from the tree with his mother, if he would have grown wings as she did, or if he had entered a stream or waterfall instead of the wide field. He doesn’t wonder what his father will become once he walks away from their fire. He doesn’t wonder why all he could see was the field once he entered it. He only has eyes for the prong-horned antelope, leaping ahead.

Quickly, there is no more light left in the wide field and the once-boys-now-animals chase something they will never catch, roaring into the dark.

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About the Author

Even James Sheldon

evan sheldon 200Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared recently in American Literary Review, the Cincinnati Review, and New Flash Fiction Review.

He is a senior editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Director for Brink Literacy Project.

You can find him online at <https://evanjamessheldon.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 269

Aberrant Orbitlusa Channellings
By Sultana Raza

Candy Town
By Amy Logan

Curiosity Coil
By Myna Chang

Emergency
By Bruce McNair

Morning Garden
By Umiyuri Katsuyama
Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Night Music
By Connor Orrico

On Demand
By Kevin J. Phyland

Space Train
By Laurie Bell

State of the Art
By Carl Walmsley

The Broken City
By Michael Casey

The Demise of Major Strom
By Timothy Dwyer

The First Artifact to Reach the End of the Universe
By Haneko Takayama
Translated by Toshiya Kamei

The Polishing of a Knob
By Kerrie Noor

Turn the Tables
By Ashley Noel

Woman Apart
By Keech Ballard

The Contributors

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.

Wes 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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NatsumiNatsumi Tanaka is a writer living in Kyoto, Japan. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous Japanese magazines such as Anima Solaris, Kotori no kyuden, and Tanpen.

She is the author of the short story collection Yumemiru ningyo no okoku (2017).

Translated by Toshiya Kamei, her short fiction has appeared in various English-language publications, including Daily Science Fiction, Japanese Fantasy Drabbles, and The William & Mary Review.

evan sheldon 200Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared recently in American Literary Review, the Cincinnati Review, and New Flash Fiction Review.

He is a senior editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Director for Brink Literacy Project.

You can find him online at <https://evanjamessheldon.com>.

jakedean200Jake Dean is a writer and waverider living on Kaurna land in South Australia.

His fiction has appeared in White Horses, The Fiction Pool, Sweaty City, Underground Writers and others.

He's utterly convinced there's a perfect wave breaking somewhere else in the solar system right now.

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Yen Ooi is the author of Sun: Queens of Earth (novel), A Suspicious Collection of Short Stories and Poetry (collection), and Road to Guangdong (computer game), and SF series editor at Brain Mill Press.

Her short stories and poetry have been featured in various publications; most recently, her short story 'The Butterfly Lovers' was published in The Good Journal 3. She is a PhD student at Royal Holloway, University of London, focusing on Chinese science fiction, where she is interested in the evolution of the genre and the discourses between native and diasporic voices.

As a writer and editor, Yen hopes to develop writing that is rich in culture that will steer genre fiction into a future that is humanity-focused. Yen is also a lecturer at Westminster University's MA Creative Writing course, a mentor in marketing and publishing, and co-founder of CreateThinkDo.

matthew r dohertyMatthew R. Doherty currently resides in Leeds, England, where he spends most of his free time writing about military history, but his other consuming passion is for science fiction.

His main influences are Patrick O’Brian and Philip Jose Farmer.

His favourite single book is “A Canticle For Leibowitz.”

He is currently working on a space opera novel, which will be finished at some point in the 22nd Century.

joanna barrettJoanna is a writer who lives in the bush near the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland.

She writes both fiction and non-fiction.

Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including Griffith Review, That’s Life magazine and The School Magazine.

She used to be a journalist but much prefers making stuff up.

At the moment she’s having fun working on a historical novel called What Eddy does for Louis.

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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.

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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andrew dunn 200Andrew writes science-fiction and fantasy from the state of Maryland on the eastern coast of the United States, often drawing ideas from jogs through forest trails at sunrise or a tasty beer at sunset. 

Andrew writes each story with the goal of giving readers something they will enjoy, without relying on the typical, predictable, or cliche'. His work has previously appeared in AntipodeanSF, 365 Tomorrows, and soon Daily Science Fiction

When Andrew isn't writing chances are he's playing guitar or bass, exploring abandoned places, or spending quality time with a bulldog. Andrew hopes you enjoy this story, and he will continue to try and write stories that you'll love to read! 

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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Robin Hillard as had a number of stories published in magazines and ezines including AntipodeanSF.

She now lives in Melbourne with a bossy little dog who takes her to the off leash park.  

Everybody (including Robin) knows their dog is the most beautiful and the variety of size and shape gave her the idea for this story.

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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>

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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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 ... ?"

aus25grn

simon petrie 200Simon Petrie, born and educated in New Zealand, now lives in the Australian Capital Territory, where he is paid to be careful with words.

He's had a few stories published before, both in AntipodeanSF and elsewhere. He has been shortlisted several times for the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards, and is a three-time Sir Julius Vogel Award winner, most recently in 2018 for his SF/crime novella Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body.

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AntipodeanSF January 2021

ISSUE 268

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Epub version:

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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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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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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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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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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.

angle mic

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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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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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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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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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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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 

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