Black Petals Issue #107, Spring, 2024

Editor's Page
BP Artists' Page
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
(After) Life is What You Make It: Fiction by Richard Brown
Gauche Cuisine: Fiction by Gordon L. Stewart
Here's to Forgetfulness: Fiction by Roger Johns
Insights Into the Trajectory of Human Cetacean Communication: Fiction by Andre Bertolino
Mal Ojo: Fiction by M. N. Wiggins
No Dark: Fiction by Bill Dougherty
Overtime: Fiction by Dennison Sleeper
A Cut Above the Rest: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Resemblance: Fiction by James McIntire
Sign of the Times: Fiction by Liam A. Spinage
The Attic Party: Fiction by Michael Fowler
The Renovators: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Balance: Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
Bawk Dark: Flash Fiction by Michael C. Jessen
The Incident With the Mismatched Man: Flash Fiction by Charles C. Cole
Radio Tower: Flash Fiction by Blair Orr
Take Me With You: Flash Fiction by Steven French
Slippery: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Where Dead Babies Come From: Poem by Nolcha Fox
302 Asylum Avenue: Poem by Joseph Danoski
Another Story: Poem by Joseph Danoski
Home Repairs: Poem by Joseph Danoski
A Creepy Leap Year: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Funeral Memorial: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
BatGrl: Poem by Casey Renee Kiser
Twin Flame: Poem by Casey Renee Kiser
Shadow Play: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Dark Ride: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Leviathans of the Void: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Sunbursts: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Into the Eyes: Poem by Anthony Bernstein
Airtime: Poem by Peter Mladinic
Gloria: Poem by Peter Mladinic
The Sorcerer: Poem by C. Walker
Frozen Eve: Poem by C. Walker

Roger Johns: Here's to Forgetfulness

Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose © 2024

Here’s To Forgetfulness


Roger Johns


Kera nudged me gently with her elbow and pointed toward the screenwall on the far side of the bedroom.

“I bet our furlough gets cut short.”

I looked up from my book and watched as a breaking news story crawled across the top of the movie she’d been streaming.

The Center for Computed Tranquility was predicting that, within two hours, the popularity of Provisional Government No. 87 would fall below that of Proposed Government No. 88, triggering the need for two battalions of political combatants to ensure that transitional hostilities would be carried out on an evenhanded basis.

As mandated by the Fairness in Governmental Change Act, one unit would be charged with protecting members of the aspiring government and liquidating representatives of the current regime. The other would attempt to maintain the safety of the agents of the present administration while hunting down operatives of the challenger faction deemed responsible for instigating the unrest.

As more details appeared on the screen, a duty summons scrolled through my left visual field. I looked at Kera and arched a questioning eyebrow. She nodded, giving me a lopsided smile. She was being called in, as well.

The constitution specified that both sides in the coming changeover attempt had to be staffed with equivalent forces, so a lot of elaborate calculations went into making certain that opposing groups were as evenly matched as possible. And because this meant Kera and I could end up in rival units, assignments were not disclosed until all combatants were put into a pre-battle fugue state in order to keep personal affinities from compromising the outcome.

Kera stopped the movie and switched on the bedside light, then rolled onto her belly. She looked up at me, disappointment clear on her face.

“This is unfortunate. Just when we were…” She narrowed her eyes, studying the inflamed area where the tubule from my henbane injector fed into my left internal carotid. “That looks like it’s getting worse. Did you report it?”

I shook my head. After Kera and I had become too physically involved to think about anything beyond the rare ecstasy of each other’s unarmored bodies and unbridled passions, mundane chores like filing a fitness-for-duty update had slipped my mind.

“I forgot and, for that, I blame you.”

A wistful smile settled on her face. “Here’s to forgetfulness.”

She pretended to raise a toast, then slipped from the bed and strode to her equipment locker and began checklisting her way through the encasement protocol for her battle armor.

I examined the lesion in the mirror of my own locker. It was a localized inflammation around the insertion site of the transdermal feeder tube. And Kera was right. It was a bit redder, but it didn’t look serious. I shrugged my shoulders and bobbled my head from side to side. My neck muscles felt slightly stiff, but not enough to impede my ability to fight. Technically, I should have reported it because such things were factored into unit parity estimates, but doing so now, right after a duty summons, would get me tagged as a shirker—something no one in my line of work could afford to have in their record. So, I slapped an antibiotic patch on it, then started gearing up. I’d look at it again, after this call-out was over.

From across the room, I heard a pneumatic hiss as Kera topped off the propellant in the injectors nested in the hollows above her clavicles. Because political warfare was a nearly continuous process, licensed fighters like Kera and I were required by law to remain conflict-capable at all times. To that end, we were equipped with a pair of readiness injectors. One delivered a continuous trickle of synthetic henbane, and the other pumped a precisely calibrated dose of the inhibitor.

Henbane, alone, provoked the uncontainable rage that guaranteed we all fought to the limits of our ability, but it was slow to take effect and quick to metabolize, so serum concentrations had to be maintained at battle-ready levels. The inhibitor held the fury in check during our off-duty hours, but just barely, and once its injector was shut off, the hunger for violence was no more than two heartbeats away.


At the deployment terminal, Kera and I learned we had been assigned to adjacent troop transports for the trip into the governance district. The faint smell of ozone and plasma leakage coming from engines of the fleet of vehicles was energizing. Cradling her helmet in the crook of her left arm, she called back to me as she headed for her boarding queue. Our eyes met and she grinned, and then she ran the tip of her tongue along her upper lip, sending a spasm of desire rippling through me. Maybe this would be a brief skirmish and we could restart our holiday. Her free hand came up in a fluttery wave.

Before I could finish raising my hand to return the gesture, the fugue-state inducers attached behind our ears were remotely activated, triggering the flow of transcranial current that caused my memories of Kera scatter and wink out like fragments of a fading dream. The buzz of conversation briefly stopped as everyone in the staging area gaped at the sea of suddenly unfamiliar faces around them. I stared at my half-raised hand, wondering who I’d wanted to wave to.

Minutes later, my transport lurched skyward and the Kill Captain led us through the fighter’s canticle, rhapsodizing the savagery of battle as we chorused our response: “Save us from the shame of mercy asked or mercy given.”

At the engagement frontier, I toggled the latch on my helmet causing the padding to swell, snugging it around my shaved head, and a sequence of tones counted me down to ready. The instant my boots hit the ground, I cut the flow of the henbane inhibitor and the urge to annihilate rose inside me with electrifying speed.

My faceplate’s augmented reality overlay showed the location and movement of my squad’s quarry—a trio of fleeing bureaucrats who had abandoned their disabled flier and gone on the run. We rounded the corner of the nearest building, in hot pursuit, as a team of opposing fighters assumed a protective formation around the runners.

To avoid innocent casualties, beam and projectile weapons were prohibited inside the district, so we closed the distance and hand-to-hand combat commenced.

As the fighting continued, I could feel the inflammation in my neck getting worse. At some point, the muscle stiffness began to hinder my ability to turn my head and, shortly after that, the swelling from the infection choked off my henbane delivery duct, causing my rage to subside and my reflexes to slow. Sensing vulnerability, my opponent unleashed a staggering uppercut that cracked my helmet seals and tore the fugue-state inducers away from my scalp, allowing unredacted memory to come flooding back.

Through her faceplate I recognized Kera. Her next blow forced me to my knees. She was so beautiful as she waded into me with her shining eyes and her blood-smeared teeth, so glorious in the bravura of her blind, icy rage. With an explosive kick, she split the lateral seams of my torso casing, exposing my upper body, then she drove her arms forward, impaling me with her barbed, serrated gauntlet blades.

“I love you,” I whispered, shuddering with agony, privileged to gratify her towering bloodlust as she roared her victory and then raised me high in a salutation to her vanquished foe.


ROGER JOHNS is the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries Dark River Rising and River of Secrets. His short fiction has been published by, among others, Yellow Mama (Issue 89, Dec. 15, 2021), Saturday Evening Post, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the Mystery Weekly Magazine, Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine, and Black Beacon Books. He is the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective·Mystery Category), and a two-time finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award. Roger’s articles and interviews about writing and career management for new authors have appeared in Career Authors, Killer Nashville Articles, the Southern Literary Review, and Southern Writers Magazine. He belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. Along with several other crime fiction writers, he co-authors the MurderBooks blog at  You can visit him on the web at:, and on X at: @rogerjohns10.

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