Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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A World of Good

by Kevin Gordon


The fire-bloom has been roaring for eighty years now.

It's where Europe used to be. More specifically, where the Hadron Collider used to be.

You see, it exploded one day. Of course "explode" isn't being very scientific. It did something wrong, something only the old scientists could properly explain. But it was just that arrogance that got them all killed. Arrogance to build a machine that could rip into the heart of our world. Arrogance to assume what was better for us. Arrogance not to tell us when things were going wrong, at least, not until the very end. So now I sit here, taking slow, labored breaths, knowing in another ten years, there won't even be oxygen enough to breathe. In fact, before all the old scientists were killed, they said another Ice Age could come, put out the fire-bloom, as well as all of us. Maybe we'll all just die of cold. I don't know why I'm writing this. Maybe it's some stupid hope that someone else will someday be alive to read it, and they might be bored enough to give it a go.


September spoke to me again. Of course, her name isn't September, it's Dawn, or Sarah, or something, but everyone calls her September. I didn't know why at first, until she was done speaking something to me, and began to turn away. She had told me a joke (something too crude for these papers) that was quite funny, so funny I laughed out loud, much to even my surprise. But then, she always had that effect on people. No matter how miserable we could be, how down on ourselves, she knew the right joke to tell at the right time, and suddenly, there you were laughing! And it was just as I was laughing at that overly crude joke that she turned away, and her eyes all of a sudden went sad. Just like that! Her wisps of hair shaded her eyes, her mouth, her cheeks, but I could see it. Like she was giving me some of her happiness, just then, with that joke. Everyone I spoke to afterwards said they'd seen the same thing, and that's why they called her September. She was dying, just a little every day, but in the most glorious ways. Kind of like this sad place we all live in.

Sorry, I get like that sometimes.

Anyway, she spoke to me today. She said, "I think...I think I can feel something." Which is good, because we all thought we lost September. That's kind of why I didn't write for the past three weeks. Just like me to start something, then throw it away when it gets tough. But it was tough, seeing her lying on the ground, her things broken. I mean...her legs, and her arms.


Sorry, I had to get myself together. I guess I should probably write this down, but it's a little difficult, as I've never told anyone this. I guess I like September. I really like her! I mean, she's so funny, and sad. She's not fake, or always crying. I know I'm talking to someone when I'm with her. So when it happened, that is, when the overpass she was on crumbled out under her, well, it was just more than I could handle.

I guess I should be even more honest. That's kind of why I started this...thing, that I'm writing. I just knew she and I would get together, and I wanted to share something good with whoever would find this. I mean, I know if the old scientists were right that it's all gonna end in about ten years. But they were wrong about so much, who knows if maybe, just maybe, they were wrong about this too? And someone, hopefully you, will read about my happiness, or now would have read, but anyway, if it were about something happy, then you would know that even when it's this bad, that we still lived, and hoped, and even loved. But I guess love is dead.


Again, I'm sorry. I think I'm always apologizing. There's so much pain around here, I just don't want to add to it. Anyway, I'm sorry I haven't been good about writing things down. September took a turn for the worse, and...and...I had to put her to sleep. With my own hands! DAMN! Why does it have to be this way? Why? Why? Why did I have to be born now? Why did she have to be born, for this? Why are we even still making babies, when we know it's all going to end, in just a few years? I wish someone would do to me what I did to September. I'm sorry, but I need to forget about all this, at least for a while.


Okay, so I've finally gotten back to sort of being myself. We had a real nice get-together, and we all laughed and cried about September. And somehow, I even feel a little better.


Today I felt like walking, but just as I got a bit away, a fly storm came up. Man did it stink! There had to be billions of them, all hissing and buzzing. You think they're all far away, but WHAM! And they're all over you, biting and banging into your face. I don't even know how they can fly, the air seems so thin lately, but they do it. Then again, all the bugs seems like they're getting thicker and thicker, like they know it's all almost over, and they're scrounging for every last bit of food. I mean, people couldn't even run from the flies. You just hafta be lucky and be near a home or something. I wonder how long they're going to be here.


Sorry, I had to out some more stuff around the windows -- it's the only thing that will keep them out. And of course, my stupid roommate Acceptance always puts it in the wrong place. I wish it would get cold again. I see how Memory's looking at me, and I think she'd be good company in bed. I don't want to be like one of the losers, who has to keep another guy in with him. I've always wondered about Acceptance.


Acceptance died today. I'm not going to be writing for a while.


Well here I am. Maybe I should say, "here I still am." Ha! I'll bet September would've liked that one. Maybe a little bit morbid for her tastes, but there you go. At least it finally got cold. All the flies died, along with most everything else. The wind is so damned cold, and so fast. That's how Acceptance died. It just came outta nowhere, all of sudden getting cold, and he couldn't make it in fast enough. It was like all the air was just sucked away. I could even feel it in here! Thankfully it's warmer today -- must have been a freak thing, that day. I don't know why, but I think I'm getting used to seeing people die. I mean, after September, I guess I could watch anyone die, and not get too torn up. I don't like to write this, but I promised myself I'd be honest. I tell people all day how good they look, when all they are, are walking wrinkled bags of crap. Oh boy. The wind kicked up again. I can hear someone screaming outside. I better see if I can help.


Fucking stupid Hadron Collider! Fucking stupid scientists! I wish I could've been there, when all those people got angry, and rioted, and cut off all those heads, and fed them all to the pigs. Damn! Wish I could've been there! They fucked it up for all of us. I can't even fucking breathe now! Damn! I just get so angry sometimes -- we all do. I guess I need to write this down. Memory's gone. She got in a fight with that stupid-shit that lives just outside our place, in one of the caves. I thought I'd seen him looking at her before! We got him good, but only after he did his business to Memory. There goes my winter.


I wasn't going to write this, but I guess I need to remember to be honest in everything I write. I might lie when I talk to people, but I guess this will be read, if at all, by someone who doesn't even know me, so I don't have to care what they think. I wish I could lie, wish I could make something up, and write it for you, because if I could, I would make up something real nice, and if I wrote it, I might even believe. Anyway, I need to tell you, I saw something. Damn! It's so weird to write this -- I think I might be going crazy. But I saw something! Memory wasn't dead when I got in her place, and that stupid shit had run off. She did something, as I got to her. She opened her hands, her pretty little blood-stained hands, opened them just a little, as she looked up at me, crying so hard even though she could barely breathe, and for just a second, in her hands, I saw this little yellow blue swirly-thing like a ball, glowing! It glowed, right in her hand! I couldn't believe it -- I just kept looking at it, even though I knew I should be petting her head and telling her it would be alright. But it glowed! It was weird, because it felt even harder to breathe, like the little glowing thing was taking all my air. I looked up at her, just as I thought that, and she smiled. Then she fell back, and it all went dark in her place. I hope you don't think I'm crazy, or lying or something, but there's just no reason for me to lie, and I don't think I'm crazy.

It glowed!


We had a traveler come in. Haven't seen someone different for quite a while! He said he had been near the fire-bloom. He said he and a group of others went to a place a little north of here, to a land once called Tunisia, to see the fire-bloom in person, to see if it was getting bigger or smaller. Never any science stuff, he made sure to say, just to see in person what was going on. I knew I wouldn't be able to write everything down that he told me, so I had him write this down. Well, this is what he saw.

We came through a terrible desert, over great rolling hills of freezing sand that glowed a dim purple in the sunlight. It took us ten days, and we had five of the trucks break down. I went with Jacob; the man assigned the task of keeping yearly watch on the Event. There were fifty of us with him, though by the time we got to the geyser, fifteen remained.

I cried when I first laid eyes on it. It was so far away, yet so utterly massive! It stretched up from the ground and through the sky itself. Great orange and red clouds germinated from within its core, spewing outward in large radiating circles. Several hurricanes could be seen with our lenses dancing around it, in fact, Jacob warned us that one was coming our way. He went to a spot he had gone to every other time, and his father before him, and pulled out a weathered, brown stick with notches on it. He held it up to the great stalk of the Event, and we all could see how wide it was last year, and how much it had grown. A few of us even broke down and cried. I looked up once more, and could see the stars through a terrible hole above the event, and it all became clear to me. I could see how all the air of the world was being sucked in and out by the Event, and why we had so precious little time left.

We all felt pretty bad afterwards after he left, after he told us all that. Can you believe it! What he didn't write down was that he felt bad, because it was a beautiful thing to see. That's what he said! A beautiful thing. I don't know what I would think if I ever saw it. September said that death is beautiful, because it brings a necessary end to even the most vibrant of lives, giving them rest, leading us from sorrow into relief. She always had a way with words, but I think I get it. I think he had too much science-speak. He called the fire-bloom an "event." and that stick with numbers on it? Sounds bad to me. Then again, I'm the one writing. I even hide this thing from everyone I know, or they might think I was too much science-speak. That traveler was the only other person I'd ever shown this to, and I made him promise to keep it a secret. I guess I'm doing just what those old fools did before, hiding stuff from other people, like the little glowing ball in Memory's hand. But none of what I know could make things any worse than they already are.


Alright, so I'm going to be honest again. I've been trying to make my own little ball. I don't know how Memory did it, but I've got nothing else to do. It's so damned cold in here, I can't even go outside. And I had to share with Able, and neither of us really likes being with other guys like that. But we all have to partner up -- it's just not safe to be alone in times like these, and body heat is the best heat of all. At least, when it's with another woman. So we just sleep separate and freeze. At least I don't worry about him like I did with Acceptance -- I know he would've tried something by now, and he was a little stronger than me. Anyway, I can't sleep when Able does -- I need some time to myself. Time to write this and think. So I tried to make the little ball. I thought real hard, trying to make it come, but nothing happened. Except I feel a little sick, and my head hurts. Maybe I just dreamed it all.

I'm so bored today. I just feel like writing. I guess it gives me some kind of hope. You know, I always wondered why they called it a fire-bloom. My father said it was because the fire bloomed out like a flower. Of course, he never explained what a flower was. I wonder if it's anything like a potato?


We've been arguing a lot lately, Able and I. He caught a glimpse of me writing, and demanded to know what I was doing. He went on to say I was hiding things from him, just like the old scientists. I tried to tell him that it was just my thing, but he wouldn't accept it. We almost fought, but it was too cold, and we were both too weak and hungry.

I wonder why I keep this to myself. Some part of me feels like this is a conversation between myself and a woman I love, like things you say after it's dark, after being together and before sleep. When both have their guards down, and are naked with one another, in body and soul. Except I don't have anyone to lay with, or share with, so I share with this pen and paper with an unknown reader.

I hope you're pretty.


Able collapsed, just after when we would usually have dinner. We ran out food a couple of days ago, and he hasn't been good. I even have trouble thinking. At least I have writing.


I put Able out of misery and drug body out to cold. I could eaten him but I rather die than live with guilt shame. I tri all day, it even taking all strength to push pen. But I got write especially if I dying! I not die alone in quiet of mind. I need someone hear thought even if just hope in dozen or so year someone will. In mind I speak to you as I on blanket on cold floor.

I wish I something to talk. Something confess.

Maybe I try make glow ball. Least die do something.


Do I have a lot to tell!

First, and I'm trying to go slow, to write it all down and make some kind of sense, first, people came! About twenty of them, all dressed in thick clothes. And it seemed like just as they came, the cold went away! The day after Able died, the cold went away. I'm so glad I didn't touch his body. I'm sad he died, but at least I allowed him to die with dignity. So, anyway, these people brought food, and we made a big fire, and ate all night! And the people! New faces, new stories, my mind was dancing with delight! (See, I'm even writing better -- I'm sorry about before.)

But that isn't the half of it.

I told you I was going to try to make the blue ball in my hand. Well, for ten minutes, I tried, feeling sick and weak and sad. All I could think of was if I should've eaten Able. But finally, something happened, and I forgot all about Able, the cold, the loneliness. All I saw was my hand, disconnected from my body. It made me calm, and peaceful, and for a minute, I thought I was dying. But I wasn't, and after I blinked, there it was! A little, blue yellow swirly sphere, hovering just over my skin. It was like looking at the sun, in the summer, it was so pretty! I could feel it was getting harder to breathe, and I knew if I kept it much longer, I would suffocate and die. But it was like having another soul to be with me, another presence in the room, and I was loathe to let it go. It was then that the noise of the visitors distracted me, and when I looked back, the sphere was gone.

So now, I wonder to myself what to do? Dying must have something to do with my ability to make the sphere. I'm going to try again tonight, when things settle down a little, and see. I think I remember how it all felt, how it went before it appeared. If I could only make it again! But even if I can't at least these people are going to stay, and there are a lot of women in their group.


I made it.

I don't know whether to be happy or sad, but I made it. It took a little while of calming myself down, focusing, thinking back on how it happened the first time. But I believed I could do it, more than anything else, and eventually it came.

It was just like before, making my breath shallow. I not only kept it for a long while, but I made it grow, until it was the size of my head. By then, I knew I was going to pass out for lack of breath, so I made it go away. The funny thing is that it didn't even feel like it was there. There was no heat, or cold -- no feeling of any kind in my hand. My eyes saw it, but I couldn't hear anything. But my mind felt like it was something, almost as if you know when there's someone standing next to you, if your eyes are closed. I knew it was there.

So now I'm faced with a bigger decision -- do I tell the others about it? Will they think I'm crazy? Can I make it in front of them? I feel like those fucking old scientists, keeping things to myself, but I just don't know. Maybe I should try to make it a few more times and then go to them. And even if I do, what does it mean? What can I do with this glowing ball?

Am I just being selfish?

It's so nice to have something, all for myself. Something that feels like a little living thing, precious and pretty, for my eyes only. Memory could make one, and now I can. I wonder if she told anyone else?

I feel like I would become the leader if I did. They would look to me for direction, and some might even accuse me of science-speak. Do I need all this trouble, now? We just got through the winter, and I feel like I've only just caught my breath. I guess, if you, my reader truly were my lover lying at my side in bed, in the deep of night, that I would be waiting for your words, or even your expression of approval or otherwise. My heart aches that all I see are the blank parts of this page.


It's been many days since I last wrote, but I had to come to a decision, and I didn't want to write until I had reached it, and done something. I told the people of what I can do. I felt stupid at first, making them all come to my little place, hoping no one would look too hard for this writing. But I did, and after a few minutes, I even made a glowing ball in my hand. They too felt short of breath, but exhilarated at the same time!

I've had some time to think on last night, and I can honestly say it made me happy! At first I was scared I'd lose this precious thing, but seeing the expressions on all those people, the joy and hope in their eyes, well, it makes up for burying September, killing my Memory, and watching Able die. Several people came by today, and asked to learn how to make their own glowing ball. And that made me happier still! I write this at the end of a long day, the first day I felt like I actually accomplished something. I taught two of those people how to make their own glowing balls, and I know it will soon spread. I don't know why we can do this, now, but I think it is a good thing. Especially since several women seem eager to spend time in my place.


We probably killed someone today, and I think it was wrong.

We had been meeting a lot over the past days, getting better at making the blue spheres. Everyone around here has learned about it, and even though they make it hard to breathe sometimes, it seems to make everyone feel a lot better. (By the way, sorry I haven't written much lately. It's just that a lot of people want to spend time around me, as I was the first to show them about the blue spheres. I never even mentioned Memory, how she made one first, and sometimes I feel bad about that, but if I did, I know people wouldn't look up to me the way they do now. Do you know how great it is to be looked up to? To have everyone respect you, be nice to you? I just know I could never go back to how it was before. So, again, sorry I haven't written much!)

So, at this last meeting, a guy named Lucifer spoke up. He said an idea came to him, about the blue spheres. He said that he wondered what would happen if a whole lot of us went to the fire-bloom, and made our spheres, as big as they could be. He said, that maybe since the spheres take the air, and it seems like the air feeds the fire-bloom, that if we made enough of the spheres around the fire-bloom, that it might go away. He said that since we made it, that we should be able to break it, and not live giving our lives to it.

I admit, I got excited, for a minute. It seemed right! But then, a couple of the big guys yelled, and called him a scientist, and screamed he was speaking science. We have a lot of big guys that we make sure have food, so they can pull the stuff over the land to make more food. We've got a lot in cans, but we know someday we won't be able to find anymore. Well, they started to throw things at him, and after a while, everyone threw rocks and other stuff at him. And I have to be honest; even I did, because I didn't want to be the only one left out. After a while he gave up and ran, and they threw him into the trash ditch, saying if he came back, we would kill him. I know he won't last long out there, in the cold, without any food.

But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. I mean, these spheres do take the air, and the bigger we make them, the more air they take, and we do know that the fire-bloom is taking all our air. It just seems like one thing leads to another. And it's been nagging at me, and won't let me go. I try to forget about it; try to remind myself how Lucifer was cast out. But it's kind of like when I got the idea to start writing this, and I just had to find some paper, and even a couple of pens. I know I won't be able to forget this, but it might mean I could die. I really wish you were my lover in bed, and that you could put your arm around me, and tell me what to do, instead of being in some other place and time, and having the luxury of just skipping ahead to see what I did. Because, right now, I don't know what to do.


I still don't know what to do.


I still don't know what to do.


I can't come back to writing this, if I'm just going to write the same thing, over and over. So I'm going to stop for a while, until I make up my mind.


Well, once again, I have a lot to tell you.

I kind of envy you. While it's only a few lines since I last wrote, for me, it's been a long, difficult journey through the fears in my mind. I think it's been at least twenty days since I last wrote, and only yesterday did I make up my mind.

I told them. During a meeting with most of the people, I told them that I thought we should try Lucifer's plan. I told them that is isn't science-speak, but just the truth. And that unlike the scientists who made the fire-bloom, that I'm not hiding anything, that I am asking everyone if they want to do it, rather than doing it behind everyone's back, like the cowardly scientists of old. I tried to be very talkative, and speak to their hearts and minds, because I didn't want any rocks thrown at me, and I didn't want to be banished and die.

But, still, a couple of the big guys threw rocks, and shouted. And I got really scared, as one of the rocks hit my head, and I felt like I was going to die. Then, and it makes me so happy, I can barely write it, then ten people stood up! They got in front of me, and stood up for me, and told everyone how it was I that gave them the gift of the blue spheres, not hiding anything from them. That even now, I wasn't hiding anything from them. They said that we should all talk, and think about it, and decide as a people what to do next.

And they all stood up, and bowed before me! Me! Can you believe it -- they all looked to me as their leader?! I wiped off some blood, and tried to remain calm, not smiling, not cheering, but instead, I gathered them around, and we spoke long into the night. And when we were done, those big guys that threw rocks at me even came to me, and cried, and apologized!


This is the last time I will write in here. We have decided to gather as many people as we can find, teach them all how to make the spheres, then cross the small ocean to the fire-bloom, and try to put it out. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. It'll be just like putting out a big match! Take the air away, and the fire will go out. Only problem is, there won't be any air for any of us who go there to breathe either.

So, if we succeed, I'll be dead, but someone will finally read these writings. And if I fail, I'll be dead, and no one will read this. Either way, I guess it's time for me to stop talking, and go to sleep. I hope I haven't kept you up too long. But I think talking to you has done me a world of good.

It's so cold in here.


© 2010 Kevin Gordon

Bio: Kevin Gordon stories have appeared in NVF, Twilight Times, Bent Masses, Orion's Child, Escape Velocity, and Kalkion. And, of course his story Turning Point appeared in the June 2010 edition of Aphelion.

E-mail: Kevin Gordon

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