Topek and Me

By Joanna Barrett

sfgenreYesterday I zoomed back to ancient Egypt at the time of the Pharaoh Ramon Topek the Fifth. Hang on, first I need to tell you about my time machine, don’t I? Time machines are as common these days as mobile phones were back in the twenty-first century, and mine is a state-of-the-art model. It’s no bigger than a fingernail and it’s made of black onyx with a rim of gold that moves and shivers whenever I look at it. Yes, creepy. But it works a treat.

I knew from my previous visit that Topek was having trouble building his pyramid. Sure enough, when I arrived he was running his hands through his hair in agitation. His slaves had been at the job for two years but the thing was still a pile of large stones. ‘What am I to do?’ he cried, the emeralds and rubies on his gold armband sparkling in the fierce Egyptian sun. ‘My slaves work but achieve nothing. Nothing!’ He clapped his hands for his servant. ‘Khafra, bring wine.’

‘I’ve come at the right time,’ I said, laughing, as I pointed to the goodies Khafra placed on an outdoor table. Wine in silver goblets, cheese, dates and olives on platters. The Pharaoh looked at me blankly. No sense of humour, these ancients. Too obsessed with death.

‘Yes, yes. You have come at the right time.’ He studied me with new eyes. ‘You’re from the future, aren’t you?’

I nodded.

‘You have knowledge of future inventions?’

I nodded again. He wasn’t slow, this Topek.

‘Come with me.’ I looked with longing at the food and wine. ‘Now.’

I shrugged. ‘Okay.’

He hurried me out onto the plain. Slaves were hauling huge blocks of stone up the side ramps of his embryo pyramid. As soon as I saw how scrawny the men were, I said, ‘Topek, if you give your slaves better food, you’ll get more work out of them.’

The Pharaoh glared at me, eyes blazing. ‘How dare you criticise me.’

He swept out his hand and, before I could think of ducking, slapped my cheek. The blow knocked me backwards and I fell onto the hot desert sand. Time to scarper, I decided. This mad Egyptian could solve his own problems. I slipped my hand into the pocket of my shorts and felt for my time machine. I gasped. It wasn’t there. My fingers found a hole in the seam of the pocket. I groaned. Frantic now, I dropped to the ground and ran my hands over the sand. 

‘So you cannot leave, eh? That is good,’ Topek said with a glint in his eye. 

‘Where’s my time machine?’ Fury exploded in my head as I realised he had snatched it up from the sand.

He ignored my question. ‘Tell me some future inventions so I can build my pyramid faster.’

We eyed each other for a long moment. I reckoned that, if I appeared to give in, I’d be able to search for my precious gadget. ‘Okay.’ 

I threw myself into pyramid building with the obsession only a condemned man would understand, all the time keeping an eye out for my time machine. I designed and built an engine to haul the blocks up the ramps. I constructed cranes and pulleys and hoists. I even persuaded Topek to improve the diet of his ten thousand slaves.

At the end of three years my time machine was still missing but his pyramid was finished. He gazed at it with pleasure and god-like awe. So did I. The rays of the setting sun lit up one face of the pyramid just as three camels strolled along in front of the structure. 

The pharaoh began to wail, the solid gold necklace lying on his chest vibrating with his sobs. ‘My tomb is a thing of great beauty, but I cannot use it until I die.’ 

‘Your problem, mate,’ I said, rolling my eyes. I lifted my chin. ‘Now give back my time machine.’

‘No,’ he stated with that same glint in his eye. ‘Never.’

Rage gripped me, but what could I do? 

Knowledge of my ability sped throughout the kingdom. I became a pyramid consultant for members of the ruling class. I supervised the building of those great edifices, designed more machinery and ensured the slaves’ well-being. Executive, engineer and union boss rolled into one. 

Then Topek died. Before his mummy was sealed inside his burial chamber, I persuaded the priests to let me in for a look. I stood stock still. My breath stuck in my throat. There it was. My black and gold time machine, embedded in the forehead of Topek’s death mask.

I pressed the button and held it down for five seconds. After finishing the sequence, I closed my eyes.

Woosh!

Elated by the familiar sensation of time travel, I punched the air. I was returning home, something I’d never expected to do in all my years in ancient Egypt. 

I opened my eyes. I was lying on a low chair beside my swimming pool in the back garden of my house in Sydney. My eyes were drawn to a prone figure nearby. I gasped. Topek’s mummy. I ran to the mummy and stared down at my old sparring partner. His death mask glared back up at me. Glared. I could guess why. I’d taken him from the pyramid in which he’d wanted to lie forever.    

Too bad. I grinned. No way was I going back to ancient Egypt. I wanted to visit other times and places. And on all my trips Topek would be my travelling companion.

Guess he never expected that when he took a fancy to my time machine.

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About the Author

Joanna Barrett

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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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 ... ?"

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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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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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