The Thread Frays

By Laurie Bell

sfgenreOne step takes me into the portal. Pain rips the air from my lungs but I don’t have time to stress about the lack of oxygen. Every part of my body stretches and shrinks in continuous waves. I pop out the other side, sucking in great gulps of icy air and bend to put my head between my legs. I’m mostly successful in not vomiting and sit up, wiping a trembling hand over my sweat drenched face. I’ve done it before, travelled via portal, and every time I react the same way. They say you get used to it. I never have. I regularly defy expectations that way. Should’ve died ten times over by now. Very few portal jumpers are as old as me. I’ve got mileage. It means experience. They send me in when there is no one left to send and I get only the worst, most deadly missions.

Lucky me.

This time is no exception.

I am an extraction agent. I pull out travellers who break the rules. The ones that stay, the ones that kill and worst of all, the ones that try to change the past.

You know why they’re the worst, don’t you? The ones on a mission to fix a past mistake or bring back someone they loved. They are the worst because they are determined and desperate.

They don’t realise there is no way to fix the past. The dead die anyway. The past stays buried and broken and lost. Nothing changes because nothing can ever change.

Because they send me.

I’ve tried, you see. I’ve tried to change the past, to right the wrongs, to save the child or the parent or the lover and I’ve learned the path is paved. The story is written. The thread stays cut. You could return day after day and try every option, every possibility, but the outcome remains the same. Our destiny is decided long before we take our first breath and long after we take our last. I nearly went mad from it.

I did lose my mind. For a time.

But unlike the many before me, I pulled myself out of the abyss. I clawed my way out of the shadows and stumbled into the light. Now, I hunt the righteous, the passionate, the sure. I remove them and allow the past to right itself. I watch the lovers, the children, and the parents die. I watch the collapse of businesses and buildings and empires. When all is as it was, I return to my empty apartment and await the next call.

The sunglasses I wear hide the technology that should not and cannot exist in this time. It is my tracking device and my encyclopaedia of actions, choices and destinies. My glasses display the path of the past traveller I have been sent to extract. It shows as a bright yellow echo of a body print that stretches off into the distance. If they knew how easy it was to track them they would surely give up sooner. As it is, I must follow at a distance, moving ever closer until I find them and offer them the choice. Come back with me or die.

They never choose the easy path.

It’s why they are here, after all.

This current tracking takes the better part of three days.

The figure ahead wears clothing similar to my own. Long grey coat and black shiny trousers. Her hair is similar to mine too. Tied up high and braided, strands sharply crossed over her skull. I give her a chance. The chance I give them all. “Stop. I know why you are here,” I call. She stops immediately but does not turn around. “Come back with me and no further action will be taken.” It’s a lie. There are always consequences. Travellers are trusted with a unique power and they always squander it. The punishment will be severe. It will be deserved.

She turns around.

It is me.

I’m frozen from the shock of recognition.

She walks forward. “Let me go and there will be no further action taken,” she says, a parody of my own threat.

I scoff. It breaks my frozen stance and I lunge forward. She is ready and kicks out, catching me across the chin. Where did I learn how to do that? More importantly, when did I learn how to do that? We trade blows. She lands more than I do. I am limping and bloody by the time she catches my wrist, spinning me into her short blade.

“Why?” I ask, clutching the knife hilt where it presses against my skin. The blade is buried deep inside my body. Hot liquid slides between my fingers as I press down hard to prevent my life force spilling across the cracked pavement.

“I had no choice,” my future self replies. Her skin is slightly more worn, a fraction more wrinkled, and her hair is greyer. “You’ll see. You’ll get there and you will find you have no other option but to try. You won’t die here. Obviously. I’ve already called for help.” She takes the glasses from my face and stomps on them, grinding the glass into pieces.

“I’ll come after you,” I threaten.

She bends down until her blurry face coalesces into something recognisable. “I know. But I need time and now I have it. I’m sorry.” She leaves without a backward glance. I press harder into my side as I hear sirens in the distance. I will go after her. It is what I am, who I am, and she knows it. A tiny glimmer of curiosity touches my mind. What could I be trying to prevent that would have me choose such a dangerous path?

I’ll go after her. But not just to stop her.

Because now I also need to know the truth.

What did I do?

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About the Author

Laurie Bell

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>

aus25grn

 

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 285

A Babbler from Door-toDoor
By Leon D Furze

A.I. — Ay, Aye!
By Col Hellmuth

Conception
By Jon Michael Emory

The Implausible Rise of Z-97R
By Ed Errington

In the Perpetual Dining Halls of Vallhalla
By Michael T. Schaper

Lady Killer
By Diana Grove

Summer Solstice
By Kevin J. Phyland

The Alarm
By Harris Tobias

The Return of the Drongo, Reborn
By William Kitcher

Two Sons
By Botond Teklesz

AntipodeanSF May 2022

ISSUE 284

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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 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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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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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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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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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

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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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

Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

Larry Niven

The Contributors

jolie lindholm 200Jolie Lindholm grew up in small towns on Long Island, NY, later moving to Florida for college.

When not writing fiction, she is acting frontwoman for South Florida rock band The Darling Fire, along with her husband of twenty-three years. They share two chihuahuas — one attack and one docile — that rule the roost.

Sci-fi and horror are her biggest influences, and she has fond memories of playing adventure games on floppy disk. She holds an MA in Criminal Justice and a BA in Communication.

(Photo credit: Billy Cessna Jr)

Chana Kohl works in Jerusalem in clinical trials and research, trotting the globe and writing speculative fiction in her spare time.

An avid sci-fi reader since adolescence, Chana only recently turned this passion towards writing, frequently incorporating cultural and religious elements from West and North Africa, Southern Europe, and the Middle East.

Her flash stories have previously appeared or will appear on 365 Tomorrows and the upcoming anthology Planetside: Science Fiction Drabbles.

chana kohl 200You can follow her creative writing journey on Twitter: <@chanakohl> or on her blog: <www.chanakohl.wordpress.com>.

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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bethany tatman 200Bethany Tatman is an aspiring writer who currently resides in one of the more hipster suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

She has previously been published in Lot’s Wife.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading a variety of genres of books — but fantasy will always be her favourite.

She can be found at <@bethany_writes> on Twitter.

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william kerr 200William Kerr is a self-professed science fiction enthusiast. He was born and raised in Tasmania but now calls Canberra home.

His personal preference is hard science fiction and dystopian-style stories which definitely influenced his first published piece ‘The Burning’.

He is looking forward to publishing more flash fiction and is hoping to become a regular contributor.

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Robin Hillard has 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.  

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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>

aus25grn

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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