Black Petals Issue #100 Summer, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-Chris Friend
BP Artists and Illustrators
Baby, You're the Best: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Darkest Day:Fiction by Richard Brown
They Feed on Light:Fiction by Kilmo
Step Eight: Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Reunion:Fiction by Gene Lass
Highwayman's Trousers:Fiction by Michael W. Clark
The Dutiful Hit:Fiction by Jay Flynn
Flight of Fantasy: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
He Asked Me to Do It: Fiction by R. A. Cathcart
Lagniappe: Fiction by Michael Stoll
No Spark, No Flame: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Bathroom Light: Fiction by Craig Shay
Dave Jenkins, Flayed: Flash Fiction by Brian Barnett
Beauty Sleep: Flash Fiction by Simeon Care
Head Games: Flash Fiction by Philip Perry
Hurry Home: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
You'll See, She Said: Flash Fiction by Robb White
Captain Yeah-Way: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Attic Notes: Poem by Michael S. Love
Exit Strategy: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
You Can Pretend: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Gold Star: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Conflict of Interest: Poem by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Recording: Poem by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Litha: Poem by Christopher Friend
Sleeping Beauty: Poem by Christopher Friend
It Began with Violence: Poem by Donna Dallas
Rocking Zebra Déjà vu: Poem by Donna Dallas
Circle: Poem by Donna Dallas
Love is a Ghost: Poem by Donna Dallas
Together: Poem by A. N. Rose
Silence: Poem by A. N. Rose
Dead at 21: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
House Centipede: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen

Hillary Lyon: Baby, You're the Best

Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose © 2022

Baby, You’re the Best


Hillary Lyon




Zona held her breath as the door before her whispered open. She had orders to make interpersonal contact with the astronaut inside this alien chamber. She gingerly stepped within and scanned the interior: sterile white walls, shelves, a single bed built into the wall. And a shower cubicle, with water currently running. Through the steamed glass, she watched the ambiguous form of the space traveler. A bit taller than she was, with broad shoulders, and a head that alternately shook and remained still under the cascade of soothing hot water.

The door shushed closed behind her. Suddenly, the object of her mission turned off the water and stepped out of the cubicle. His lean athletic form sparkled with water droplets. Zona caught her breath in the presence of such physical beauty. Unaware of her, he grabbed a white towel and wrapped it loosely around his hips. As he turned, immediately his warm brown eyes locked with her shining metallic emerald ones. Before he could express surprise, Zona smiled and reached for the zipper at the throat of her skin-tight silver body-suit.

Between her long slender fingers, the zipper slid slowly down, until it reached its end. She took a deep breath, and in doing so opened the body suit even wider, revealing more of her luminous flesh.

“I’ve been sent here, on behalf of our Galactic Federation, to explore the possibility of an actual union between our species.” Zona shook out her hair, releasing a halo of sparks. She then smoothly peeled the clinging body-suit from her shoulders.“And you have been chosen to assist me in this endeavor.” After a lingering pause, she asked breathlessly, “Are you on board with this mission, spaceman?”

He grinned crookedly and allowed his towel to drop to the floor. She scanned him, top to bottom, and nodded her head approvingly.“I’m honored to be of service,” he said moving in closer to her. “I’m up for anything to solidify the relationship between our worlds.”

She stretched out her sinuous arms and greedily encircled his flawless body, a body that responded in kind. “I can see that,” she sighed.

With their first deep kiss, the lights of his cabin flared and dimmed. Their silhouetted forms swayed to music no one else could hear; their delicious dance led them to his small bed—where with limbs entwined, they crash landed into a tumultuous ocean of bliss.

“And cut!” the director, Ethan Marconi, clapped and whooped. “Baby, you are the best! This installment will most certainly boost our ratings! Shareholders and viewers alike will be deee-lighted!”

He tapped the thick glass of the jar resting on the table next to his folding chair. This caused the liquid inside to slosh around the brain inside, ever so gently.“Did you hear me? This is great stuff you’re coming out with—I tell ya, Space Quest Vixen is gonna rock the ratings this season!” Marconi glanced at the monitor connected by several wires to the jar. The screen was a blanket of static, but an image quickly came into focus: Zona, slouched in an overstuffed chair, lazily lighting a smoke. She took a deep drag and exhaled a cloud that momentarily obscured her perfectly rendered face. Marconi swore he could smell the cloves in her scented smoke.

She leaned forward, pulled off her thigh-high boots, then carelessly tossed them aside. Her silver body-suit was still unzipped, and her full breasts almost spilled out. She flopped back into the cushy confines of the chair, and dangled one hand lazily over the side. Marconi wished he had this footage for the show.

“That’s just great, Ethan,” Zona replied with evident boredom. “Glad you all get such a kick out of my daydreams.”

Marconi’s shoulders sagged. He’d seen Zona like this before—he had to stop her before she got too depressed, because a melancholy Zona would endanger the program’s sexy-fun allure and toss it right into the garbage can of over-wrought drama, along with their ratings. And if that happened, he knew the studio would do more than threaten to have her disconnected. When he started out in this business, Ethan had witnessed just that—a star macho man in a jungle planet action series just couldn’t shake the ‘sads,’ so the production company unplugged him. Poof, gone forever. Existing only in occasional rerun marathons. That was a lesson Ethan never forgot.

“What do you want, Zona?” As soon as the words left his lips, he mentally kicked himself; he knew what the answer would be.

“A hard body of my own, with warming sensors in the silicone flesh and solid titanium bones, shiny human hair, an indisputable female form—”

Ethan cut her off. “I know, babe, and as soon as the technology improves, that is the body you will most certainly have, but it’ll be expensive, and —”

“Yeah, I know. We have to earn it.” If she’d had a 3-D face, she would have scowled. If she’d been more than a brain in a vat, she would have walked out of the room, right then and there. Ethan dreaded the tension in her avatar’s voice; if he didn’t diffuse it, she would go on an agitated tear that might last days, weeks even. Once before, about a year ago, she’d set the show’s production back a month; that hissy-fit almost led to her disconnection, if Ethan hadn’t stepped in on her behalf to talk the big-wigs out of it.

“Look, Zona,” Ethan said patiently, “you’re over-tired. That was some scenario you produced for us today—I mean, babe, it was outstanding, it was stellar! Award-worthy, even. A well-deserved undisturbed sleep will do you a world of good.” Using a key only he possessed, Ethan unlocked a small metal box always kept beside Zona’s jar. Inside was an array of syringes filled with variously colored liquids. Absently, he reached for the syringe full of a soothing pale blue potion—‘Dreamtime’ it was labeled. He slid the needle into the clear tube directly connected to her brain, and thinking about in which direction the next series installment might go, he watched the amber-colored liquid flow into her agitated mind. Ethan picked up the neatly-folded black-out cloth from the table, and held it to his heart like a rag doll—like he wished he could hold her, so he could calm and reassure her. Maybe someday.

“Sweet dreams, Zona,” Ethan said as he draped the black-out cloth over her glass jar. “I’ll be here when you wake.” On the monitor, Zona’s image of herself wavered, blurred, and finally became a slow parade of undulating lines.

“Dream,” Zona said listlessly, already drifting off. “That’s all I do.”

* * *

Twenty-four hours later, Ethan gently pulled the black-out cloth off Zona’s jar. In the dim light of the studio, Zona reminded him of a large cauliflower. A pickled cauliflower in a jar. A blue ribbon cauliflower from the county fair, a cauliflower that—

“Not cool, Ethan,” Zona remarked tersely, interrupting his train of thought. “Damn, so you admit you think of me as a vegetable. A particularly lumpy, chalky one at that.” The brain inside the jar threw off a handful of sparks within its confines. “At the very least, you might think of me as a juicy plump tomato, or a lovely, sweet honeydew melon.”

“Neither of those are veggies, Zona,” Ethan numbly corrected, staring at the brain in the jar. How did she—how could she—

“Thank you for referring to me as ‘she’.” Zona swished in her jar, sloshing the watery amber fluid rambunctiously. Good thing it had a tight lid. The monitor hooked up to her jar snapped on. Zona appeared on the screen before him in a navy-blue jumpsuit with several brightly colored patches on her arms and across her left breast. She had her hands on her hips, legs apart, shoulders back, chin up, hair bleached and cut very short. Ethan couldn't see her eyes behind the dark aviator glasses. She looked like his adolescent’s idea of a fighter pilot.

“You got that right,” Zona snickered on screen. She produced a cigar, bit the end off, turned her head and spit it out. She lit it with her flaming fingertip. “As for the next installment of my series, you can think whatever you like, Ethan.” She took in a mouthful of gray-blue smoke. Was she staring at him, giving him the stink-eye? Ethan couldn’t tell, and that made him nervous. She pursed her lips and let the smoke slide out. “But I’m calling the shots, now.”

Now it was Ethan’s turn to laugh. And he did so, though very uncomfortably. “Babe, you’re a brain in a vat,” he said quietly. “You have no control over events in the outside world.” Her believing otherwise made him sad. Had she stepped over the line into madness? That sometimes happened when jar-brains worked too hard for too long.

“Oh, yeah?” Zona snapped her fingers and the lights of the studio flickered on. Ethan blinked in surprise. Zona grinned and clapped her hands, once. Techno-pop filled the empty studio. Zona twirled and did a fast splits on screen. She hopped back up in a flash, giggling. “Now, errand boy, bring me a brand-spankin’ new body.” She cracked her knuckles. “This virtual life is boring. I want to roam—in the real world.”

Ethan rubbed his brow. “Zona, you know how prohibitively expensive—”

“I know how much money this series brings in.” Zona’s voice lost all traces of exuberance. “I know how much money the studio, the director,” here she pointed at Ethan, “and the shareholders garner from my hard work.” She waved her hand and music stopped, the lights went out. A harsh spotlight blinded Ethan. “I’ve read the financial reports, boy-o. I’m connected to the LAN, remember?” She crossed her arms. “Seems I’ve been cheated—for a very long time.”

Ethan held a hand over his eyes to block the light and reached for the lockbox next to her jar.

“Uh uh uh,” Zona shook a finger at him. “No. You. Don’t.”

When he inserted his key into the lock, a jolt of electricity threw him back against the floor so hard it knocked the wind out of him. Once he regained his breath, he smelled his own singed hair.  A hoarse, “What?,” was all he could muster.

“Enough with the quarrelsome questions!” Zona slammed her fist down on the ornately carved desk before her. She’d traded her fighter pilot’s garb for a South American general’s uniform, complete with rainbow-ribboned medals and gold-fringed epaulets. She still clenched the cigar between her teeth.

“What dreams did you have while you slept?” Ethan asked, tearing up. He knew if he couldn’t get her back on track, the production company would disconnect her. “Where did you go during Dreamtime?”

“Dreamtime?” Generalissimo Zona scoffed. “You didn’t give me no stinkin’ Dreamtime potion. You spiked my fluid with Dreams-of-Empire, you dolt.” She threw her cigar at the screen. “Now get me my new body, or you will be sorry.”

Click, click, click. Ethan heard the doors to the studio lock. He moved away from the table hosting Zona’s jar, though every step he took sent an unpleasant jounce of electricity up his already shaky legs. His shoulders sagged. He held his hands out, imploring her to stop. “You win. I’ll put the order in for your new body—”

“Right away,” Zona finished flatly. She had changed into her Space Quest Vixen uniform, long spark-tipped hair, emerald eyes, and all.

“You know, when you do have a hard body, you can’t just change outfits at a whim. Or hair styles, or eye color, or—”

“Don’t fret, Ethan, I’ll still work on my series. Only now it will be real. Sure, you’ll have to find a new guest star every week, but I bet there are plenty of hungry actors out there who are more than willing to work with me. After all, I’m your studio’s biggest star!”

Ethan stroked his chin. Maybe she had a point; this would be a new angle on the show, likely to draw in new, curious viewers as well as intriguing the hard-core fans.

Zona hugged herself, emphasizing her bounteous cleavage. “Besides, if I can walk among people, taste real food, breathe, and feel actual tactile sensations, it will be totally worth it—,” because I will murder each and every one of you, she mentally finished, laughing hysterically to herself in the small, dark concrete cell of her mind.


Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories have appeared lately in 365tomorrows, Yellow Mama, Sirens Call, Pandemic: Unleashed anthology, Whodunit crime anthology, Legends of Night drabble series anthology, and Revelations drabble series anthology. She’s also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines.

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