Thursday, April 5, 2012


© 2012 by John Shirley

Voices echoing through a pitch black cavern, phasing in and out of audibility...

“I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s dying...” A man’s voice in the darkness. Someone Len hadn’t heard before. “...don’t think we’ll get him into suspension in time, and the ambulance—another twenty minutes minimum. He’s fairly old anyway and—”

The white security guard interrupted, “Mr. Burstein says—”

A woman interrupted him. “I don’t care what he says—he can fire me if he wants!” Len recognized the woman’s voice. Anne. His Anne. “I’m taking care of this man right here and now. Just get the hell out of research!”

“Ms Feldman, hey—listen, we also got to think about deniability, he’s been in this lab, whatever he saw here, he can’t be talking about it out there.”

“I’ll be responsible for that too,” she said.

The unknown man’s voice once more. “You can’t do it without the program’s approval and you can’t get that without using an account—and you don’t have an account to use.”

“We do have one.” Anne’s voice.

A pause. Then his father’s voice, almost whining. “It would give it all to him. And I’ve come so far with this, Anne...”

“Just...” Anne’s voice was fading. “Let’s lift him up on the...” Len was too weak to hear the rest. Strange to think of being too weak simply to hear something. Wasn’t that almost the definition of being dead? Wasn’t that...

“I’ve got him stabilized,” Anne said. “I don’t know for how long.”

If I’m hearing Anne, I’m probably not dead.

Len opened his eyes, and through a blurring filminesss he saw he was in a kind of coffin, with the lid partly tilted back. Sarcophagus.

“Anne...Listen...” His father’s voice. How was that possible. Wasn’t his father dead? “I don’t know how I feel about it...I mean, I’m sorry about the deception but...”

Anne stepped into Len’s line of sight, smiling down at him. The sight of her face struck through him. He was seeing her now—and decades ago. Seeing her hurt expression as he pulled his hand from hers in the vertical farm. Farther back, after their third date: Anne waking up beside him, a sweet, almost maternal look on her face, something like the expression she had now...

She squeezed his hand, her touch strong and warm. “You awake? Your heart gave out, but we’ve got it going again. I don’t think you have a lot of time, though, Leonard, unless we do something radical. You want to see if we can get you to the ER? I’m not sure you’d survive the transition, hon.”

He shook his head. Managed to speak through a throat that felt coated in dust. Rasping, “Stay here with you.” Christ. I’m talking like a four year old.

“Barry, listen...” She was looking at Len’s father, her voice charged with a soft urgency. “Your own son is lying here, dying of old age. Doesn’t that bother you?”

“Of course it does,” Barry said earnestly.

Yeah, right, Len thought. Give him a Daytime Emmy. Were there still Daytime Emmys?

“We have one treatment we can give,” Anne said, gently. “Barry—if I don’t give him your last one, he dies.”

“But—I started my treatment already. You said there’d be a telomerase cascade...” Now he sounded sincere.

“Yes. If you don’t have the last treatment, you’ll start to age, right away. And it’ll happen at an accelerated pace.”

“And then...what? I’ll die? Is my death really the right thing, here? That’s...not fair.”

Len felt a bone-deep weakness creeping up on him, threatening to make his limbs crumble like old timbers with dry rot. Pain was welling up like a slow thick fountain of cold, toxic fluid in his chest. But all that was secondary to an instinctive, visceral sense of pure rejection. There was something primeval in the feeling. His father had rejected his own blood, trading it for vanity.

Len could barely speak. And if he could speak—what would he say to all this? He could never say, “No dad, you should die—not me...

“Maybe we should ask Len,” Anne suggested, almost too softly to hear.

Don’t do that. Trying to answer that question might kill him. He wanted time to talk to Anne a little more...

He took a deep breath, and made himself speak. “Anne...”

Even that was too much. He fell back into darkness...

Len blinked, cleared his eyes, and stared at the slanting bars of translucent gold, scintillating through the window. He focused, saw that the slanting goldness was simply sunlight and the scintillation was dust particles churning in the light. But the sun seemed unusually vibrant, almost solid. He could feel it humming, inside him...

“You awake, Len?” Anne asked.

He turned his head. Was surprised when the motion didn’t hurt.

She was smiling at him, sitting next to his bed in the clinic recovery room. Soothing pale blue walls. Digital seascapes, the sea moving gently within the frame.

“ dad—he gave me the...” He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. It didn’t have that old man’s huskiness anymore.

“Yes.” She looked away, compressed her lips.

“My dad did this for me? He gave up his last treatment to save me?”

She cleared her throat. Sounded almost convincing as she said, “Yes he did.”

Len looked at her. Then he shook his head. “You never had a gift for lying. Lots of talents, you. Not that one. What’d you really do?”

She sighed, and shrugged. “You’re right—he didn’t choose you over himself. I chose. After I did it, he asked me to tell you he’d let you have it—so he could go out with you forgiving him.” She smiled ruefully. “I got fired for it. I’m out of a job. But I gave you his last treatment...”

She shrugged again, reached out and took his hands between hers. Her touch was alive, almost electrical. And he saw that his hands, in hers, were not those of a very old man, nor a very young one. “All the wrong people seem to get rejuvenation. I wanted something for us, Len. We paid our dues.”

Len turned his hands so that her fingers slipped within his.

“Listen...have I said I’m sorry, Anne? I’ve spent the whole second half of my life being sorry I was so stupid...” The touch of her hand in his was as intimate as anything he’d ever felt.

Len waved at the nurse supervisor, and strode past the vital care admission desk, into the hospice hallway. Mahela didn’t recognize him, with the partial rejuvenation.

His father wasn’t in the same room Len had been in—he was on the other side of the building. This window looked to the west and they could see the mercuric expanse of the sea, a quarter mile away, gnawing at the eroding buildings of sunken Santa Monica. Barry could watch the past sinking.

Anne was already there, seated by dad’s bed, holding his hand—holding Barry Winniver’s withered, age spotted hand.

You can’t interfere with stage three, unless you start the stage over. And Barry hadn’t any way to pay for the third stage, once Anne had given it to Len.

The reaction had set in; the telomerase cascade had come; the geriatric regression...

“You look good, son,” said the withered old man, lying in the bed. His voice a croak. But the ironic smile was bright enough. That Winniver smile.

“Thanks.” He had nothing to say that wasn’t awkward. He knew there was no reason he should feel guilty—but he felt vaguely guilty anyway. “I feel good.”

“You can’t get Len all the way to full retread, Anne?” Barry Winniver asked, looking out the window. Barry, “Zach”—Leonard Winniver’s father.

She shook her head. “I couldn’t get away with that—didn’t have access. It was hard enough to get him off the hook for breaking in to Jensen...”

Len put his hand on his father’s bony shoulder. He could feel the aging, the deterioration under his hand. He was stunned at how quickly the reaction had set in—the regression. He took a breath, and tried out his own acting. “You sorry you gave it to me, dad?”

Barry Winniver shook his head. “I was having trouble being a retread. Couldn’t quite live with it.” A weak smile. “So to speak. Maybe ‘Zack’ did drop a hint or two to you on purpose...” He shrugged. “I wanted you to have it, son. Even before you showed up at Jensen...”

Len nodded. Not bad, for a sick old man.

Dad cleared his throat. “I just could have had it all. Full treatment.”

Len patted his father’s shoulder. “I’m just fine with being forty-five years old, again—biologically forty-five. Thanks, dad. I know it wasn’t easy. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is to face...” Least he could do was let the old man off the hook.

Barry glanced at Anne. “He won’t lose it all of a sudden, like me?”

She shook her head, her lips pressed together. “Nope. Len will age at a normal rate, here on out.” She stood up, patting the old man’s hand, and turned to Len, and said, “We should go, Len. We’ve got a three hour drive down the coast. Your dad needs rest.”


Len’s father squinted blearily up at his son, frowning, foggily puzzled. It was as if Barry Winniver wasn’t entirely sure how he’d ended up like this—their positions reversed. Not long ago he’d been the strong young man at the bedside. “I don’t know,” his dad said aloud. “I don’t know. But...” Turning his head to gaze again out the window at the old buildings lapped by the sea. “...I’m sorry it took me so long to do the right thing.”

Barry's rheumy old eyes filled with tears. His best performance. Or maybe there was something real in it.

“That’s all right dad.” Len smiled. And continued the pretense. “You saved me in the end.”

“Well, you two...should go,” the old man murmured. “I need to rest.”

Len reached out, and squeezed his father’s hand. Just once.

“Goodbye, dad,” he said.

~ end ~


by John Shirley

Be Sure To Return
~Next Friday, the 13th~
when we present

the short tale
by Gil James Bavel

Only on
Fantasy and Science

1 comment:

Archive of Stories
and Authors


Phoenix has enjoyed writing since he
was a little kid. He finds much import-
ance and truth in creative expression.
Phoenix has written over sixty books,
and has published everything from
novels, to poetry and philosophy.
He hopes to inspire people with his
writing and to ask difficult questions
about our world and the universe.
Phoenix lives in Salt Lake City, Utah,
where he spends much of his time
reading books on science, philosophy,
and literature. He spends a good deal
of his free time writing and working
on new books. The Freezine of Fant-
asy and Science Fiction welcomes him
and his unique, intense vision.
Discover Phoenix's books at his author
page on Amazon. Also check out his blog.

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee. He has been
a Romantic poet for as long as any-
one can remember, specializing in
the composition of spectral balladry,
utilizing to great effect a traditional
poetic form that taps into the haunted
undercurrents of folklore seldom found
in other forms of writing.
His poetry has appeared on the pages
of such publications as SPECTRAL
CTHULHU, and a poem of his,
"The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,"
won the Rhysling Award for long-form
poetry. His collection of weird balladry
and Jack tales, THE LAY OF OLD HEX,
was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff is the author of the
following books: Ring of Fire (Eraserhead
Press, 2018), Flesh Trade (co-written
w/Edward Morris; published by Create-
Space, 2017), Punk Rock Ghost Story
(Deadite Press, 2016), Amazing Punk
Stories (Eraserhead Press, 2016),
Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich (Eraserhead
Press, 2014), Hunting the Moon Tribe
(Eraserhead Press, 2011), The Vegan
Revolution...with Zombies (Eraserhead
Press, 2010), and Screams from a Dying
World (Afterbirth Books, 2009).
David is a hardcore vegan and tireless
environmentalist. His contributions to
the punk horror scene and the planet in
general have already established him
as a bright new writer and activist to
watch out for. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance.

Sanford Meschkow's

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)

Gene Stewart's

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.
When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.

Paul Stuart's

Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.

Rain Grave's

Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -

Icy Sedgwick's

Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth

BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and

G. Alden Davis's

G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.

Shae Sveniker's

Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.

Nigel Strange's

Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.

J.R. Torina's

J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.

K.B. Updike, Jr's

K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)