It was the Thursday night after carnival, the Maroon Bird overnight run from Salvador, Bahia, straight on to Paraíso in the state of Tocantins, and most of the passengers in the queue at the door looked like they hadn’t slept for a week. Harold showed his ticket and took a seat in the middle of the bus.
Harold was an investigative journalist, or at least that was what he said if anyone asked him. In fact it hadn’t really been true since he’d quit his job at the São Paulo Star. Now he was a free-lance hack who chased any sensational story he could find, and sold it to any tabloid that would pay.
It was a job with plenty of opportunities to travel, by bus if he could afford it and hitchhiking if he couldn’t, and plenty of opportunities to meet people, mostly bald-faced liars.
This was his second trip to Paraíso. He’d heard rumors of alien sightings, and in January he’d interviewed Sérgio, who claimed to have seen aliens on the ridge behind his house.
—They look like us—humanoids—but they glow, they’re luminous. I spotted them easily at night.
Sérgio had shown Harold a gaudy plastic and metal weapon.
—They must be creatures made of pure energy held together by magnetic fields. My patented disruptor will blow them apart.
Harold nodded. He’d glimpsed dollar signs in Sérgio’s eyes.
—They can only be here in Tocantins for one reason. They’re planning an invasion. Every Brazilian is going to need one of my disruptors for protection.
Since January, there had been more sightings of the aliens around Paraíso, so apparently Sérgio’s weapon hadn’t dissuaded them. Now it was time for Harold to do a follow-up.
The woman in the seat beside Harold had straggling blond hair with flecks of tinsel in it, leftovers from carnival. She read through the Tocantins Times, rustling the pages while Harold tried to sleep.
“I wrote that piece, senhorinha.” He pointed at the article the woman was reading.
“Really? You’re Senhor Harold Bates? Forgive me, but you don’t look like a gringo.”
“It’s just a pseudonym. Did you like the story? “
“The truth, senhor?”
“If you think it’s necessary.”
“It’s ridiculous nonsense. Golden aliens glowing like the sun, and that man making weapons to destroy them.”
“It’s all true. After their spacecraft landed on the ridge they told Sérgio there were more of them on the way. Tocantins is just the beachhead. It’s located midway between Mato Grosso and Bahia, I’m sure you appreciate the strategic significance. It will be Tocantins first and then the world. That’s what Sérgio said.”
Harold had embellished the story somewhat.
“If these aliens exist at all, they’re highly advanced beings. There’s no evidence that they mean us any harm, yet this … Sérgio would attack them without the slightest provocation. It’s a disgrace. Imagine what we could learn from them if we welcomed them with open arms.”
Harold nodded. “You might be right, senhorinha.”
In the small hours of Friday morning, the driver announced their arrival in Paraíso. The announcement was greeted with a chorus of swearing from the passengers, who were displeased they’d been woken up.
The tinsel blonde ran a brush through her hair and tinfoil stars floated in the air.
“I’ve been mulling over your ideas about the aliens, senhorinha. They’re very perceptive. I’m preparing an opinion piece for the Tocantins Times and I’ll be in Paraíso until Saturday. Perhaps I could interview you?”
She considered for a moment. “I don’t see why not. I work at Oliveira’s Hardware. Come and see me and perhaps we can arrange something.”
“Excuse me, senhorinha, who should I ask for?”
The Tocantins Sunshine Lodge advertised the cheapest tariffs in Paraíso, and it lived up to Harold’s expectations. After a few hours’ sleep in a bare concrete cell, he went to a bar where he’d arranged to meet a local school teacher, Doctor Benito Dias, who claimed to have seen the aliens on several occasions.
The doctor had straight black hair and a thin face with sagging eyes and jowls, like an underfed Saint Bernard, and he only drank bourbon, rattling the ice in his glass as he spoke.
“I’ve made a detailed study of the aliens. I understand them better than anyone, and I have a theory about their radiant emissions.” He glanced at his watch. “But perhaps you’d like to see them for yourself?”
Doctor Dias suggested they pay a visit to Araguaia Park, where he said the aliens often turned up, and Harold agreed.
A few hours later, crouched in the brush with a light rain falling, a plastic sheet covering his camera, and so many mosquitoes whining around him that they were colliding mid-air, Harold’s enthusiasm began to fade.
“I’ve seen them here many times, dancing in the fields. Gorgeous ethereal beings, almost like angels,” the doctor whispered. “I’m sorry we were unlucky tonight, senhor.”
Harold slapped at a mosquito that was too bloated to take off. “May I ask how often you come here, doctor?”
“Generally two or three times a week. More often in the school holidays.”
“Perhaps we should call it a night.”
“Yes, certainly, but I suggest we try again tomorrow. The phantasms will be back, I’m sure of it.”
“Phantasms, doctor? Why would you call the aliens ‘phantasms’?”
“That’s the name for them around here. Everyone has called them the Tocantins phantasms for as long as I can remember.”
“So these luminous beings have been coming to Tocantins for a long time then?”
“For at least twenty years.”
On the walk back to the car, Harold asked the good doctor to explain his theory about the aliens.
“We assume that extraterrestrial life is basically like us. Life on earth is life from the sun. Sunlight shines on the plants and they grow, and whether it’s direct or indirect, the earth’s creatures consume energy that almost always comes from the sun. But the aliens don’t consume energy, they radiate it. They’re intensely luminous, and that means they can’t live like us. They must live backwards.”
To emphasize the importance of his revelation, Doctor Dias stopped walking and stared at Harold until he stopped scratching.
“Very interesting. Please continue, doctor.”
“The aliens’ perception is completely different to ours. For them, everything is reversed in time. They perceive all motions as running backwards, and rays of light travel in the opposite direction. They see themselves as dark, and they are warmed by a golden light that is emitted by everything around them on this earth. The sun is like a black hole that absorbs radiation from space. From our perspective of the flow of time, the aliens live before they are born.”
After he’d parted ways with Doctor Dias, Harold went back to the bar, and back to drinking.
A year before, when he was lead reporter for the Star, he’d never imagined he would leave São Paulo. But one evening his flight to Brasília was delayed, and he’d come back to his apartment to find his wife Ana in bed with his good friend Tomás.
He’d taken the bus from their bedroom and never looked back, and his career, his home, his wife, the identity that he’d wrapped around himself like a cozy blanket, were all left behind.
In the end, it hadn’t been Ana’s lies and excuses that had truly hurt him, that had driven him away that night, but the realization that her moods, her inexplicable happiness and anger, which he’d imagined were because of something he’d done or not done unwittingly, had nothing at all to do with him. They’d been a reflection of her relationship with Tomás, who was the real source of her joy and sorrow.
He signaled to the bartender for a refill and handed over the last of his cash. When he faced up to it, which he never did when he was sober, he half believed that it was his fault—his life had imploded because of his lack of awareness, his assumption that everything would just run along with no effort from him.
From there, it was only a small step to the conclusion that he fully deserved to be Harold Bates.
The next day, with his head pounding from the previous night’s excess of cheap cane spirits, Harold went to visit Naia at the hardware store. There was a commotion outside the doors, people were talking and pointing, and when he entered the store he saw his first alien. A moment later someone tried to chop the creature’s head off with a plantation knife, and a massive electric shock stopped his heart.
Earlier the same day …
“It isn’t the same as Rio, but the Afrodrome was amazing, and everyone was so friendly. Someone even gave me a seat in the VIP area.”
Naia had traveled to Salvador for Carnival, and she was the center of attention of the small group gathered at the checkouts of the hardware store.
“You should have seen their gowns, Vilma. They were spinning around like princesses at the ball. You have to come next year.”
“I will,” Vilma said, and thought about the sweating crowds jammed into the stands and dancing along the circuits in the streets.
Someone called out from the aisles, “Oi, a little help here please.”
The owner of the store was still in Rio with his wife, and he wouldn’t return until Monday. Alessandro replied. “Just a minute, senhor. Can’t you see we’re busy here?”
Naia talked breathlessly about the carnival schools, the pounding of the drums, the floats with the stars of samba. “You know what? We should all go next year.”
Alessandro was gazing into the distance, not through the store windows, but along the glass corridors of time. “I remember my first carnival. I was living in Rio, and it rained a lot that February. I met Célia, all in yellow with a chrysanthemum in her hair. Célia, I’ll never forget her. Or maybe it was … Celina—”
His eyes refocused in the present. “Anyway, it’s your turn now. I’ve had my share of carnivals.”
“I’ll come with you, Naia,” Hiroshi said.
“The three of us will go.”
Vilma thought about the carnival and what she would take—asthma inhalers and antibiotics, stacks of aspirin, the drums would give anyone a headache, and then there was her feather allergy, continuous sneezing and a rash, so she’d have to stay away from feathery costumes and take along some antihistamines just in case, and what had she forgotten?
It didn’t matter, because Vilma knew she wouldn’t go, not next year, not any year, and she would never be Célia or Celina with a chrysanthemum.
“I met a journalist in the bus on the way back. He wrote a story in the Tocantins Times about the sightings of aliens around here. He’s going to do more interviews.” Naia brushed her blond hair back over her ear. “He wants to talk to me as well. He’s interested in my theories about the aliens.”
Vilma was fairly sure that, whoever the reporter was, he was interested in more than Naia’s theories.
The impatient customer was approaching them, and Alessandro stubbed his cigarette. “I’d better sort him out,” he said, and left the group.
“And did you two find any gold while I was away?”
There were abandoned goldfields west of Paraíso, and Hiroshi was a keen prospector. He’d built a metal detector out of a converted lawnmower, and over the Carnival holiday, Vilma had gone with him to the shores of Confusion Lake to try it out.
Fields had been randomly mown, flocks of moorhens startled by the noise had skidded off the lake, they’d dug futile holes and filled them in, and at sunset as they dug the last hole of the day, the spade had clunked against something hollow.
“We didn’t find any gold, but there was something interesting. Did you bring it in, Hiroshi?”
Hiroshi produced a copper chest about the size of a shoe box. He’d cleaned off the verdigris and sawn through the padlock on the hinged lid. “This was buried a meter down. You wouldn’t be able to find it with an ordinary metal detector, but the coil I attached to the mower sends a high power electromagnetic pulse into the ground.” He spoke with some pride.
“What’s inside it?”
“It’s strange.” Hiroshi opened the box. It contained an odd-looking electromechanical device and a yellowed piece of paper with handwriting that had faded to near invisibility.
Naia picked up the paper. “Can I borrow your glasses, Vilma?”
Vilma handed them over. She was more curious about the now blurred device.
“I think this is a list of three names, they’re numbered. I can’t make them out. I think the first might be someone … Pereira. That’s your family name, Hiroshi.”
“That’s what I thought. Anyway, it’s a common name.”
Vilma was inspecting the electromechanical device at nose-length. “This thing looks like some sort of crystal, quartz maybe. The mounting has a hole tapped in it. I’d say twenty millimeters, fine thread.”
Vilma was an expert in screw sizes. She was the one who restocked the shelves and made sure everything was put back in the right place when customers were lazy.
Naia returned her thick rimmed glasses and Vilma verified the thread. “It is, one point five millimeters fine.”
“I hadn’t looked at it closely. Is there anything in the bore?” Hiroshi sounded surprised.
“A couple of copper contact rings, looks like.”
“Whatever it is, it will screw onto my metal detector, that’s exactly the same as the connector I made for the drive coil.”
“I think you should try it out, Hiroshi, see what it does.” Naia smiled at him, and he responded with sudden enthusiasm.
“I will. I’m only working half a day today. I’ll try it when I go home.”
The store was unusually busy in the afternoon, and Vilma and Naia worked the checkouts while Alessandro assisted anyone who managed to find him.
Just after one o’clock, there was a commotion in the aisles. There were screams and imprecations, and people began running for the doors.
Alessandro was helping a customer at Vilma’s checkout with her pot plants. “Excuse me, senhora, I’ll have to sort this out.”
He turned to Vilma. “It’ll be another mule’s head on the shelves in the do-it-yourself aisle.” He put out his cigarette and went to check.
Confusion and panic spread along the checkout lines, and in a few minutes everyone had left the store.
“Naia, what’s going on?”
“I don’t know. A man in my queue was babbling about the end of the world. He said he was going to the Madureira Church to pray for absolution.”
Alessandro came back agitated. “Senhorinhas, we have to get out of here. I saw them with my own eyes.” He caught is breath.
“Calm down, Alessandro. What did you see?”
“Aliens. Three of them.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Alessandro. There’s no such—”
“Look.” Naia was staring, wide-eyed. She pointed down an aisle.
It was coming towards them from the back of the store—a tall willowy shape that seemed to be formed of bright yellow light, with arms and legs, a head and a torso like a human, but with no distinguishable features on its face, and no fingers or toes.
It moved in graceful waves, oscillations that rippled through its limbs and body, and it stopped before them, with its chest expanding and contracting as if it were breathing.
“This is an historic moment. It wants to talk to us. We’re going to communicate with an alien species.” Vilma felt quite relaxed. Despite War of the Worlds, she thought it was unlikely that extraterrestrial bacteria could cross the inter-species boundary.
She addressed the alien, “Welcome to Brazil, senhor.”
Naia was staring at the creature, entranced. “Meu Deus, he’s so beautiful. Like an Aztec sun god.”
“Naia, how do you know it’s a ‘he’?”
“I just do. How do you know he understands Portuguese?”
Vilma was puzzled. “It’s just standing there. What’s it doing in the hardware store anyway?”
“It’s rude to talk about him as if he’s not here, Vilma.” She smiled at the alien. “I’m Naia and this is my friend Vilma. We finish work at six o’clock.”
“Why did you say that?”
“Welcome to Brazil, senhor,” Naia mimicked.
Alessandro, who’d disappeared into the aisles again, returned with a long bladed plantation knife. “It’s a dangerous creature, senhorinhas, stand back.”
Brandishing the knife, he spoke to the alien slowly, in English. “Get out of here, Gort. Go back to your own planet.”
There was no response from the luminous being, and holding the knife two-handed, Alessandro swung it in a shallow arc at the extraterrestrial’s neck.
The blade passed straight through as if the alien wasn’t there and nicked a customer who’d just walked into the store. There was a crackle of electricity along the blade, from the alien to the unlucky stranger, and he fell to the floor.
Alessandro had been protected by the knife’s insulated handle. “Whoops,” he said.
The alien seemed to be interested in something at the checkout counter, and Vilma ignored it. She crouched down and felt the stranger’s neck for a pulse.
There was nothing, but cardiopulmonary resuscitation was one of the medical scenarios Vilma had studied.
“Merda!” Harold coughed and spluttered.
The woman who’d been vigorously pumping his chest stopped and used an asthma inhaler.
“Senhorinha. I think you may have saved my life.”
“You’re welcome, senhor. It’s dangerous in here, there are aliens. You should leave.”
“He’s the reporter I told you about, Vilma. It’s Senhor Harold Bates.” Naia spoke without taking her eyes off the luminous being. “He’s trying to tell us something with his arms.”
Harold looked at his own arms, then at the alien’s. One had darkened at the end, and it was pushing a copper chest on the counter. After that, it unmistakably pointed at Naia. There was no doubt it was trying to communicate.
“I’m an expert in alien phenomena,” Harold said, not adding that up until today his work had been inventions and lies. “Perhaps I can help you. What’s in the box?”
Vilma introduced herself and Alessandro, who mumbled a vague apology and sheepishly offered him a cigarette. She told Harold about the crystal that Hiroshi had taken with him to test on his metal detecting lawnmower, and the list with three names on it. Meanwhile, the alien repeated its actions several times, pushing the box, and pointing at Naia.
“It’s as if the alien knows about the box, and it knows who we are,” Vilma said.
Outside there was the sound of someone with a loudhailer. Police were advising curious onlookers to clear the area and move away. Harold could see them setting up barricades, and green lights were flashing through the store windows.
The alien had apparently finished delivering its message, and it walked towards the store entrance with its gentle rippling movement.
“I’m going with him,” Naia said, and followed behind.
When the alien came out to the street there was a chorus of shouts. “Look out!” Vilma yelled. With a roar of automatic weapons fire, the plate glass of the store front shattered and crashed to the ground.
The alien continued on its way, untouched, but Naia was hit by a round that passed through its body, and she fell to the ground with blood pumping out of her chest.
Nothing could be done to save Naia, and Vilma was inconsolable. Harold and Alessandro looked on as she sobbed, coughing and wheezing.
The police hadn’t entered the store, perhaps because they’d been advised there was more than one alien, and the loudhailer was calling on the extraterrestrials to release the hostages and surrender themselves.
Harold thought about the alien’s inexplicable behavior. “Vilma, that creature wanted you to use the crystal on Naia. I think that’s what it was trying to tell us.”
“Well senhor, whatever it wanted, it’s too late now.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. We know nothing about the crystal. It might be alien technology.”
Vilma blew her nose, took a deep breath, and calmed herself. “I suppose you’re right, senhor. We have to at least try. My car is parked behind the warehouse. We’ll have to carry her body. And there are two more of the creatures around here somewhere.”
“The police are more dangerous than the aliens. We don’t want them to stop us.”
Alessandro volunteered. “I’ll take care of that, I’ll distract them.”
While Alessandro went to the front of the store and waved a piece of muslin curtain he’d tied to a rake handle, Vilma and Harold wheeled a shopping cart with Naia’s body in it to the car.
They saw no sign of the other aliens.
They found Hiroshi’s body in the backyard of his house, lying close to the lawnmower.
“Hiroshi, Hiroshi.” Tears streamed down Vilma’s cheeks. “This can’t be happening. My best friends.”
Harold inspected the body, but there were no obvious wounds. He dragged it away across the lawn and exposed the crystal underneath, still connected by a cable to the mower. He pulled Naia’s body on top of the crystal.
Vilma was huddled on the ground, clutching her knees to her chest, rocking and sobbing.
“Vilma, querida, I need you to help me now. How does the lawnmower work?”
Vilma, taking deep breaths, repeated the explanation Hiroshi had given her when they went prospecting.
“You start the mower, and it charges a high-voltage … capacitator that sends a pulse of electricity into the coil—the crystal, that’s the crystal now. There’s only one pulse unless you push the throttle.”
Harold pulled the mower’s starter cord and the motor turned over. The capacitor charged in less than a minute and there was a sharp crack.
Naia’s body was still, unmoving.
“I’m sorry, Vilma. It was just … a stupid idea.”
“No it wasn’t. We had to try.” She used her asthma inhaler, and the alien that had come into the yard unnoticed seemed to be watching her.
“Look,” Harold said, whispering for no reason.
The alien went over to Naia’s body. Tall and beautiful in the fading light, with a luminous mist streaming upwards from its head and shoulders to high above the trees before it dissipated, the alien lay down on Naia, shrank until it was Naia’s size, and merged with her, dissolving into her until there was just a golden nimbus, and then nothing.
“I don’t understand. What happened to the alien? Did it bring Naia back to life?”
Harold touched Naia’s cold face. He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
He tried to concentrate. Harold Bates was a hack who invented stories about aliens, but once he’d been an investigative reporter, and he’d worked by putting the pieces of evidence together, seeing the pattern.
“They’re not aliens, they’re … spirits. They’re the Tocantin phantasms.” He was sure about that at least. The creatures matched the description that Doutor Dias had given him. The phantasms had been around for a long time, and they had connections with people that he didn’t understand yet, but they weren’t extraterrestrials.
“Really? My mother told me about the phantasms. She lives near Confusion Lake. She used to see them at sunrise, on the eastern shore.”
“The phantasm in the hardware store knew Naia, and it knew about the copper chest. So if it was someone’s spirit, like a ghost, whose would it be?”
“The only person who knew about the chest and wasn’t actually in the store was Hiroshi.”
“Hiroshi, then. It was Hiroshi’s phantasm in the hardware store.”
“So Hiroshi was already dead when the aliens, I mean the phantasms, appeared.” Vilma hesitated. “But that can’t be right. The phantasms appeared not long after he’d left. He would have still been driving home then.”
Harold was thinking about what they’d just seen. “It can’t be a coincidence that the phantasm came here right after we powered up the crystal under Naia’s body. It had to be Naia’s phantasm, her spirit.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would her spirit go back into her body after she died?”
Vilma was right, nothing made sense. The phantasms of Naia and Hiroshi had been in the hardware store when they were both still alive, and they’d disappeared into their bodies when they died.
Except that it didn’t make sense a very particular way. It was backwards.
He remembered what Doutor Dias had said about the aliens.
—They’re intensely luminous, and that means they can’t live like us. They must live backwards.
The luminous phantasms lived backwards. He explained to Vilma.
“You’re saying that when we saw Naia’s phantasm arrive and enter her body, she was actually leaving?”
“Yes, their perception of time is the reverse of ours, their lives stretch into our past. When Hiroshi’s phantasm came to the hardware store, he first witnessed Naia’s death, and then showed us what to do by pointing at the copper chest. That was the way he experienced the events.”
“I can’t imagine what it would be like, to see the world that way.”
“Doutor Dias told me that for them, the whole world is aglow, the plants and animals, the land and sea. I wonder what they will know, what they will come to understand.”
“My mother saw Naia and Hiroshi on the shores of Confusion Lake. At some time in their future, which is our past, they’ll prepare the crystal, put it in the copper chest, and bury it.”
Harold nodded. “I guess so. But there was someone else. There were three phantasms. The note had three names.”
At that moment, a slender golden creature came around the corner of the house and stood before them.
It was the flaming spirit, the soul of one of them, so whatever happened had to be predestined, but it didn’t feel that way to Harold. He was weary of the journey that had started in his apartment in São Paulo, and there was no end in sight, just a long bus ride downhill.
For a moment he contemplated using the crystal on himself, separating his soul from his body and starting again, freed from Harold Bates.
Sometimes a situation is so bizarre that a person’s mind jumps tracks, their usual reactions no longer apply, and they become unpredictable, capable of anything. Vilma pulled her inhaler and foil arrays of pills out of her pockets, stared at them as if she didn’t recognize them, and let them fall to the ground. She stood in silence, gazing at her phantasm, her face wet with tears and snot.
She needed the gentlest of encouragements. Harold held out his hand. She took it, and he led her to the crystal.
The sound of heavy vehicles in the street outside had stopped and doors were slamming. The police had traced the sightings of aliens to Hiroshi’s street. They were going house to house, and Harold was looking at three bodies in the backyard. He’d inspected the crystal and it had shattered with its final use.
He thought for a moment and went searching inside the house. He found a baseball bat— that would have to do.
He slammed it into a concrete wall a couple of times, sat down on the back steps, and took his pen and notepad out of his pocket.
I Witnessed the Tocantins Massacre.
Despite the heroic efforts of the Paraíso Police, they were unable to reach us in time.
I tried to save my friends from the aliens with a baseball bat, but it was almost ineffective against their magnetic shielding. With a surge of electricity from a single touch, the evil aliens stopped their hearts. Alone, I fought on valiantly until finally they lost interest in me.
My greatest regret is that I left my Magnetic Disruptor behind in my hotel room. The inexpensive device, which will shortly be available at Oliveira’s Hardware in Paraíso, emits powerful rays that are capable of destroying the aliens’ magnetic protection. Had I brought it with me, my dear friends, the innocent victims of cruel extraterrestrials who took their lives without a second thought, would still be with us today.
Your roving reporter
He would flesh it out later. For now, he had nowhere to stay and no money. He was homeless and friendless, and he was Harold Bates.
Still, the police would probably hold him overnight at least, and Sérgio had promised him ten percent of the disruptor sales.
Food for Thought
The logical problem with time travel is the Bilking Paradox, meaning that information sent from the future to the past can be used to “bilk” a future event, i.e., cause it not to happen after it’s happened. Putting the cause after the effect (out of order) creates a causal loop, and it’s been argued that this paradox means time travel, or more accurately, transmission of information from the future to the past, is impossible.
In speculative fiction, the logical difficulty is handled in various ways, such as maintaining self-consistency, changing or new realities, or simply ignoring the contradictions. In Tocantins, the approach is self-consistency, without delving too deeply into the questions of free will that arise as a consequence.
Whether you believe that logical contradictions are relevant to the real world or not, there is an even bigger question behind the time travel paradox, and that is why does time have the direction it does in any case? Why is the past, the past and the future, the future? Part of the answer might be that for humankind in this part of the universe, time’s arrow points in the usual direction, but under different circumstances it could point in the reverse direction.
Tocantins investigates the reversal of one important aspect of time’s arrow—the direction of living. Unless you’re prepared to believe quite a few more than six impossible things before breakfast, the beings that live backward in the story can’t exist, but one basic requirement of living backward is covered. Lifeforms on earth consume energy in various forms and turn it to various purposes. Reversal in time means that this becomes emission of energy, and just as plants absorb sunlight, the beings in the story give off a golden light.
About the Author
Steve Simpson lives with the wood ducks in Sydney, Australia. He took up writing when the neighbours complained about the bagpipes, and his stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies. His hobbies include experiments with time travel and the creation of negative light, digital art, and research on epileptic seizure detection. You can find Steve’s work online at inconstantlight.com