Serum 66

By Laurie Bell

sfgenreThey called it Serum 66. I overheard many of the discussions, arguments, and justifications, and I dunno what it was but figured it was pretty important given how testy everyone got about it.

My trolley rattled forward. Its simple electronic brain knew only two commands. Go and Stop. The right rear wheel squeaked as it travelled forward.

My mop made a familiar splat and echo in the hall as it hit the bucket. I squeezed the handle to wring out excess water and almost popped the blister on my palm.

Cursing softly, I checked over my shoulder, but there was no one around to hear and report me. No one worked at this hour. A thump from the lab at the end of the corridor had my heart springing into my throat. I choked it down. Crud. Now I’d have to skip that one and return before I could go home. It would add minutes to my job that were better spent drinking beer. These days it took three cans where it once took only two to calm the jitters in my chest and the shake in my hands. Wrapped as they were around the mop handle you couldn’t see it, but it was there, it was always there.

I tried to block them out, but thinking about the tremble brought images to my mind: flying dirt, drying mud beneath my fingernails, red painting the land around me. And sounds: screaming, shouting, the whistle of mortar fire, the rumble and shake of the ground at each step of the giant troop carrier. My ears filled with explosions, the bang hiss and pop-pop of the weapon in my hand. Somehow, I always heard shells land in the mud nearby, though that was impossible given the noise around me.

I moaned. No, no not again.

Then, instead of hoarse voices screaming in pain, I was surrounded by silence. Blinking, I realised my hands were pressed to the damp laminate floor; the mop handle on the ground beside my knee. Heart pounding and swallowing back bile, I wiped sweat from my eyes and smelt not blood but the rubber coating my fingers. Gloves. Eucalyptus and tea-tree oil, and the bleach that burned the hair out of my nose. Work. I was at work.

I took up the mop handle with still-trembling hands and climbed back to my feet. A voice in the lab ahead. That was what I’d heard. A voice. I waved the trolley forward and did my best to block out the squeak of the wheel.

“Not ready, Jerimiah.”

“Qing, we cannot delay the final testing. Jefferson is demanding results.”
The argument grew louder. I shook my head. No sensible, intelligent work was carried out at this late hour. They should return in the morning when they were rested and caffeinated. I pressed my wet mop into the corners of the skirting board and floor close to the lab door.

“No, Jerimiah. Stop!” The woman’s voice shrieked. A hissing grew louder and then a pop-bang split the air and brought my memories to the surface again. Oh god, no! This time the reality of the sounds kept me focused. Green smoke billowed from the door as it slid open. I ran in. A woman in a white coat lay on the floor. Red liquid created a halo around her head. Her accusatory eyes stared at me. Why weren’t you faster, why didn’t you save me? I coughed, choking on acrid smoke and kept searching. The man, also in a white coat, crouched by the door. I wrapped a hand around his back and pulled him to his feet. Together, we stumbled through the smoke back out into the corridor.

“Qing?” the man mumbled.

I shook my head, eyes streaming tears, and dragged him down the corridor. My left forearm arm stung like I’d caught fire. I let the man go, slapped a glove against my burning arm and looked down. My skin was clear. The burning grew, taking over my whole arm. “The hell?”

Beside me, Jerimiah gasped. He began flapping at his own exposed skin. As I watched, his neck bruised. The purple colour grew darker and spread quickly over his face. I ripped off my gloves, crying out in pain as my nails grew sharp, tearing my skin open. Purple covered my hands, coarse black hair sprouted through my skin.

The burning continued. I screamed, wanting to rip the clothes from my body. I could smell cooking flesh. A scream burst from my throat, animalistic and feral I fell to all fours and ran — I wouldn’t be caught here when they came for the scientist. My gait grew faster. I found fresh air through shattered glass, the stings from the cuts in my skin disappearing as quickly as they’d appeared. My breathing grew rapid but did not put pressure on my chest. The ground flew by my clawed feet — nothing but flight in my head.

I looked up at the sky and bellowed. Behind me; an answering cry. I would not go back.

The air smelt crisp.

I found freedom in the ground beneath my pounding feet, the air in my lungs, and silence in my head. They called it Serum 66.

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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 (available now).

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>


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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.


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

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 241

A Fairy Tale
by Susan Cornford

Fat Of The Land
by Bob Carlton

Freckle Face
by Kris Ashton

Getting To Know You
by George Nikolopoulos

Poem For Fa And Jed Who Sailed The Ocean Red
by Chris Kelso

Salvage Rights
by Kevin J. Phyland

by Martin Lochman

The Way Things Went
by A. Katherine Black

Whats App
by Edwina Harvey

by Matthew Harrison

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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, 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 <>.

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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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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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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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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 <>

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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <>

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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 (available now).

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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SF News

SF News

Get Roger Ley's Novel "Chronscape" Free

AntiSF contributor Roger Ley tells us that his novel "Chronoscape" is free for a limited time at Amazon this weekend, July 14 and July 15. Get it now!

Lillicat Releases "A Betrayal and Other Stories" by Brian Biswas

Lillicat Publications has relased AntiSF contributor Brian Biswas's new story collection "A Betrayal And Other Stories", now available at Smashwords and Amazon. <Find Out More>

Meerkat To Publish Eugen M. Bacon's "A Woman's Choice"

Meerkat Press has acquired AntiSF contributor Eugen M. Bacon's literary speculative novel "A Woman's Choice" for publication in 2019. Go Eugen! <Read More>


Aussie Awards News

2018 Aurealis Awards Open

2018 Aurealis Awards overseers the Continuum Foundation (ConFound) announces that the 2018 Aurealis Awards are now open for entries.

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction, are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2018.

Full guidelines and FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website: <>


Upcoming Aussie Cons

Oz Comic-Con Brisbane — Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Merivale St and Glenelg St, South Brisbane, 22/09/2018 - 30/09/2018.

Conflux 14 - The Unconventional Hero — Vibe Hotel, 1 Rogan Street, Canberra Airport ACT 2609. 29/09/2018 - 01/10/2018. More Information: <https//>. AntipodeanSF will be at Conflux 14!

Oz Comic-Con Sydney — ICC Sydney, 14 Darling Dr, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia, 29-30/09/2018

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antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

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