Wet Paint

By Simon R. Gardner

sfgenreI sat watching twinkling lights in the smog of dusk circling outside the large open window. Bathed in a glorious heat that reminded me of my childhood in the suburbs of Cairo, I tried to keep still as Abdel positioned the headset and then fastened it under my chin.

"Are you sure you're ready for this?" Abdel said, his voice just a murmur now.

"Have you set it for 3.15?" I said, as my fingernails prised clefts in the soft wood of the old school chair he’d salvaged.

"Give or take 30 seconds."

"Don't be lazy, Abdel," I scolded. "It's got to be 3.15 exactly!"

I closed my eyes as I felt the vibration beginning, and as I opened them again a few seconds later I was somehow surprised to find I was in complete darkness. I was sat in what felt like the back seat of a moving car, with two large bodies pressed up tightly against me on either side.

The bodies made crude jokes about their wives as the car made its way past noisy street vendors and people who were free — or at least sounded as such — before turning into a bumpy unpaved street that I could feel through my lower back. The thick air and the smell of leather jackets made me retch repeatedly, much to their amusement. Even blindfolded, I thought I knew where we were going.

The wheels slowed to a halt, and I heard what sounded like a large metal gate creak open, and then shut with a loud clunk behind us as the car crawled through. As doors opened and the air rushed in, I was taken roughly by my arms into the short-lived freedom of the outside, which ended suddenly with a short set of steps and an automatic door. Inside, the building too smelled of heat and leather and something else I couldn't put my finger on, and as we walked down a corridor I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d spent my whole life associating automatic doors with safety.

***

They took the cloth from my face, momentarily blinding me under the strip lighting. As I regained my focus, I saw sitting in front of me, at a neat desk with ordered papers and family photographs, a small, fat man, with glasses and sparkling eyes.

"Name?" he said, his eyes still rifling through paperwork.

I looked around, not sure if he was talking to me, until I felt the sharp prod just below my shoulder blade.

"Magid Ashour,” I croaked, “my father used to work for the police in …”

"And why have you come to see me today, Magid?" he said, cutting me off. He looked up at me for the first time, and I felt myself getting goosebumps as I saw he was smirking.

"I don't know, sir," I said, trying to stop myself shaking before instantly feeling a slap on the side of my head from one of the men behind me.

"What brings Magid to see us sergeant?"

"He's our resident graffiti artist. We caught him on a side street with two cans in his bag, fifty metres away there was a new message. It was still wet."

The fat man seemed to ponder this information for an eternity, wiping his brow with a dirty handkerchief and rubbing his stubby fingers up and down the gold rails of his glasses.

"Magid Ashour. You have been arrested on suspicion of causing a public nuisance, defacing public property, vandalism ..."

A smirk crept again around his lips, slowly arcing over his face like it was mapping my future.

"... and crimes against the dignity of the state."

“Sir,” I stammered, but the fat man cut me off once again, his eyes returning to his paperwork as he muttered, "Take him downstairs."

***

The smell became stronger as the men frog-marched me further into the labyrinthine building, and then into a windowless room with what looked like a tape recorder and two laptops sitting on a table. The sergeant, with a smile that looked like he was greeting an old friend, pushed me down into a metal chair with no arms.

"Are you going to read my mind?" I said, looking at the computers, the words tumbling out of my mouth before I could stop them.

The men laughed.

"Where do you think you are, Magid? You've been watching too many movies. We have nothing so sophisticated here."

As if on that signal, one of the men retrieved a strip of rubber hose that was hanging from a nail in the corner of the room and turned towards me grinning.

Like a spell broken, my visceral and uncontrollable reaction was to reach up and pull the headset and wires off my head. I felt the sudden ecstasy of relief to find I was staring once again at my cousin Abdel, sitting with eyes wide open in his room on the tenth floor of our apartment building in Giza.

"And you still want to go ahead with it, Magid?" Abdel said, looking at me with raised eyebrows.

"Of course," I said, realising that my hands were still shaking.

"But maybe we'll leave half an hour later."

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About The Author

 Simon R. Gardner

Simon R. Gardner is a writer from the United Kingdom. His fiction has been published or is forthcoming in OPEN, Freshwater and SVJO, while his essays have appeared in The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Republic, and others.

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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.

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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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Coming In Issue 249

A King May Look At A Cat
by Lynne Lumsden Green

Applicants Must Be Able To Cackle
by Nikky Lee

Crash Dummy
by Roger Ley

Invisible Giants And Little Types
by AE Reiff

Infinite Monkeys
by Aiki Flinthart

Kitting Up
by David Scholes

She's Dead
by Mark Towse

Surfing On Neptune
by Eugen M. Bacon

The Forgetful Visitor
by Barry Germansky

The Sin Of Envy
by George Nikolopoulos

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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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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.

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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 <wordsbydavid.com>

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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 (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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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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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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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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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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SF News

Upcoming Cons

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention — will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>.

Swancon 2019 — 18/04/2019 - 22/04/2019,  Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges 46-54 Marine Terrace, Fremantle WA 6160. Swancon is Australia's longest-running science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction convention, and is the premiere event in Perth for fans of all forms of speculative media. More information: <https://swancon.com.au>.

Continuum 15 Other Worlds (Natcon 58): Continuum 15 is the Australian National SF Convention, to be held in Melbourne on June 7–10. More information and memberships <https://continuum.org.au>. AntipodeanSF will be at Continuum 15 and celebrating Issue 250 of AntiSF!

Worldcon Dublin 2019 — An Irish Worldcon 15/08/2019 till 19/08/2019, The Convention Centre Dublin (CCD). <More info here>

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