Aphelion Issue 295, Volume 28
June 2024 --
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
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Hello and welcome to the December 2019/January 2020 issue of Aphelion!

This is our annual double-sized Holiday issue. Twice the thrills, twice the chillsbecause it will have to tide you over until February, LOL! We do this every year so that the staff and I get to spend the holidays with our loved ones without the crush of dropping everything we're doing at the end of December and putting out a January issue. Believe me, it takes some time to go through all the submissions and HTML-code the selections for each issue. In just a few minutes, I'll shut up and let you get to readingbut first I would like to say a little bit about the unexpected, and the frailties of life. You see, about the middle of November, I had a pretty intense scare. It went down something like this:

What do you know? Turns out that I am allergic to *something,* after all. A couple of weeks ago we were at the Dollartree over on Atlanta Highway in Athens, GA. Over in the corner where Lindsey was looking at makeup, my throat started itching, I started coughing, and became a little dizzy. Lyn said we should leave, then quickly suggested I go outside while she went through the checkout. As soon as I reached the fresh air, I started feeling better. By the time Lyn came out, I was back to normal—except for a runny nose that persisted for half an hour.

I didn’t notice any perfume or any sort of smell at all, didn’t touch anything, no clue as to what was the cause. That is the first time in my life anything like that ever happened to me. We’ve shopped in that store many times—with no problems at all.

I was just fine later that same day, except my sinuses were completely dry and I was terribly thirsty. Even now, two weeks later, that scratchy throat still hasn't completely vanished.

For a brief period in my teens, I had a mild reaction to codeine, which made the inside of my throat itch. But in my 30s, after a motorcycle accident, I was prescribed Tylenol 3—which contains codeine—for pain relief, and never suffered the itch in my throat again after 120 days of taking two of those every 4 to 6 of my waking hours.

Meanwhile, back in the store, we were right next to the perfume aisle. Lyn thinks that someone had been testing perfume scents earlier in the day. My present theory is that while the odor of the perfumes had dissipated, (I can’t remember if those are called ketones or esters,) some particulates from the mix of aerosols were still lingering in the air in that corner of the store—and some random combination of leftover airborne particulates from the perfume shelves caused me to go into anaphylactic shock, albeit a very mild case. Lyn recognized the sound of my cough, added to my description of the itchy throat, as exactly that. Thus her decision to get me out of there ASAP. If I had been there alone, instead of with her, most likely I would have continued shopping, and woken up—if I were very lucky—in the Emergency Room. Dodged a bullet that day, thanks to my wife’s medical training from her days working at a retirement home when she lived in New Mexico.

 I know the above sounds all sciencey and everything. But I’ve had 42 years worth of periodic OSHA safety training at work that included filter mask training, airborne particulates, parts per million of aerosols, testing the air in confined spaces for harmful or deadly gasses, and I PAID ATTENTION! Because my life could depend on what the instructors had to teach. Didn't help me avoid the situation, but it allowed me to understand it once I had time to think.

The fact that something intangible, invisible, totally undetectable by my senses came within a few minutes of putting me in a hospital—that was frightening. I'm not sure that I want to ever go back into that particular store again. There are other stores in that same chain elsewhere. in fact, we went to one just yesterday, and everything was uneventful. Better to avoid that one, other store than to risk it happening again. The human body is a vastly complex bit of biomechanical artwork. It can take huge amounts of punisment, yet can be shut down by a simple cloud of invisible dust, floating randomly in the air. Gave me pause for thought.

So, that is the extent of my musings upon my own mortality—at least for a while.

Now that I've said my piece, I'll shut up and let you get to reading the new stories, LOL! Remember, there are twice as many of everything in this issue. But you have to make it last twice as long. Please do feel free to comment on the stories by going to our Forums section and making your thoughts known. The writers will thank you for it. Plus, you'll be helping them become better writers, too.


Title:  Antennae Galaxies composite of ALMA and Hubble observations.

Photo Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO). Visible light image: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope