by David J. Rank
Gwen sealed her hazmat suit, the county humane society’s blue-and-red logo on each shoulder. She slid a ventilator over nose and mouth, secured goggles across her eyes, and tightened the suit’s hood around her face.
“Can you hear me?”
“Luke, I am your … mother.” Chloe breathed heavily through her ventilator. “We sound like Darth’s spinster aunts.”
“Funny.” Gwen pulled on her gloves. “Ready or not, in we go.”
Chloe shuddered within her hazmat gear.
They stood on the sagging front porch of the arthritic little house, as gray and rotted as an exposed corpse. Chloe unlocked the weather-blistered front door, shoving the cranky-hinged thing inward with a grunt.
Flight of the Lonely
by Dusty Wallace
Edgar tried to make it to the toilet without glancing at the mirror over his bathroom sink. He didn’t want to see himself anymore. His wrinkly, liver-spotted wings had been beautiful once, blanketed with golden plumage. The feathers had started falling away in his fifties, and he’d begun to look sickly. Once they were all gone, the pale, chicken-bumped skin embarrassed him. Now he was an 80-year-old man, and the wings were covered in the same fine, white hairs that filled his ears and nostrils.
Edgar groaned as a trickle of urine forced its way past his enlarged prostate. A retirement community, he thought to himself. Retirement from what? From a furniture factory, was the answer, but he didn’t see it that way. Retirement was what successful people did after a fulfilling life. He had simply grown too old to work and got dragged to this place after a heart attack 10 years before. He groaned again as he zipped up. His bladder never felt empty anymore.
“If only I could fit a bed in here,” he said to himself. “Would make life a lot simpler.” Then he glanced in the mirror anyway.
Most seniors feared giving up their freedom, but for Edgar, it was different. In the past, whenever he’d been angry or frustrated—which was often—he’d take to the skies. A few hours of seeing humanity from God’s perspective would cool his thoughts. Now, holed up in a 90-square-foot room that smelled like dirty diapers and death, he felt tortured.
The Big Purple
by S. H. Mansouri
Four white walls, like porcelain drapes, met Maggie’s weary gaze in every direction. The box that housed her was semitransparent, and the only sign of life outside was the occasional shrouded shape that danced across the walls like a shadow play beneath a cotton sheet. The ceiling was open, save for row upon row of cold shimmering silver bars that shot horizontally across the sky. Translucent, brightly-colored plastic tubes were strewn throughout the inside of the box, curving along the corners like neon caterpillars.
She stretched her neck upward and breathed in a concoction of scents: acetone, formaldehyde, latex, and ethanol. The dark, empty space inside these four walls comprised the entirety of her existence. However, Maggie knew from the slightest inkling of hope that the world she truly belonged to was somehow much bigger than anything the box-shaped unit could contain.
The ground beneath her was a mixture of wooden shrapnel and cedar dust that cushioned her every step in the darkness. Groggy and languid, Maggie traversed the yard, climbed to the top of a red tube and gripped her paws around a metal nipple that hung down between the bars on the ceiling. She chugged voraciously from the water dispenser, her stomach expanding like a furry, brown balloon. Satiated, Maggie jumped down from the tube and scurried back to bed, where she burrowed comfortably next to her cellmate, Fran.
’Tis the Season
by Max Booth III
The cat’s heart had been placed on the kitchen table a few hours before the Man in Red arrived. Flies hovered above it, amazed at their tasty discovery. The Man in Red was not annoyed by the bugs. He preferred their presence and their taste.
Beside the heart was a glass of warm milk.
The boy hid in the closet, watching through a crack in the door. The Man in Red moved through the living room, a hefty velvet bag thrown over his shoulders. Despite his massive weight, his feet made no sound as they strode across the hardwood floor.
The boy feared the Man in Red would notice the whites of his eyeballs, hiding in the darkness of the closet, but could not bring himself to close his eyes. He needed to see this, needed to know that the monster had taken the bait.
by Martin Chandler
He had the driest skin they had ever seen. He claimed to moisturize it several times a day, but his skin was dark and scaly and sucked the moisture out of anything. In many places, it was hard and cracked, and he worried obsessively that it would turn to stone if he didn’t keep up his daily lotion schedule.
Of course, his doctor dismissed this worry. “Skin can’t turn to stone,” she said. “At worst, it will flake off and expose a layer of skin underneath. The real question is: Why is it so dry? Do you work for a salt company? Or with sand?”
He didn’t, and told her so. She took some samples of his flaking skin to be analyzed, and prescribed him a topical corticosteroid. He left, feeling entirely unhelped and uncertain.
Three score and six days ago, Acidic Fiction brought forth on this website, a new story, conceived in a contemporary setting and dedicated to the proposition that all stories should be free to read, and all authors, paid. Since then, the site has published 24 additional stories, drawn from a pool of 316 submissions by 232 different authors. Since its inception on August 24, 2014, the website has received more than 4,600 page views from more than 2,000 unique readers.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers and writers who have been willing to read this magazine and submit stories, even though it is brand-new, unproven, and relatively low-budget. I’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of writing in the stories I have received, especially considering the wide variety of other magazines and online venues the authors could have chosen instead. And of course, Acidic Fiction draws in only the most intelligent, friendly, and attractive readers on the entire Internet.
The magazine will continue its twice-weekly schedule until Christmas, when I will take a winter break until after New Year’s Day. I’ll continue accepting submissions during that time, but responses will be a bit slower due to the holidays. In early 2015, I will begin assembling an anthology of the best stories published on the site in 2014. I’ll provide some more information about the book next year.
In the meantime, I’m grateful to everyone involved with making this magazine as terrific as possible, even after just three months online. Thank you very much.
by John A. DeMember
Five and innocent, Johnny’s wiry frame hunkered down, just below the bed rails. His grandmother’s labored breathing pulsed like black-green waves, agitated to a froth and dying against the shore.
The light of the day, in its last gasps, slithered over the horizon. Like a burial shroud, a mute, gray darkness descended on the snow-covered landscape just beyond the foggy bay windows of the playroom. The room, once full of joy and sunlight—yellows and light browns—was now dark, shadowy, and filled with the smell of decay. The hushed conversations in the adjoining kitchen formed an interminable white noise.
A massive bed now dominated the room, and little Johnny played in the tent created by the blankets draped over his elderly grandmother. Entirely ignorant of the vicious cancer eating her alive, he felt certain she was asleep. She always slept.
A Song for Alice
by DJ Daniels
Ben was a singing butcher. Not the loud, operatic songs of a fruit seller, just a ditty, a tiny hum, a speck of joy. He sang to distract the girls from his profession, from the blood and the bones and the hanging carcasses. One girl, in particular.
She didn’t notice him, not for a long time. She would shudder when she came to the shop counter, and everyone knew she wasn’t happy to be there.
“She’s not for you, mate,” his fellow butchers would say. Probably a vego, probably anemic, probably forced to eat some meat. They’d seen it all before. “She’ll never look at you.”
Ben would watch her long, red hair swaying as she walked away with her sausages and bacon, and he would sigh. He made special marinades to tempt her, and in his imaginings, his longing, he found could see the flow of life before her, in beautiful curls, curves of pleasure and joy. He thought that if he sang, she would see that his life could coil in with hers, that they would wind together and make something marvelous and alive.
by Julio Toro San Martin
What was the name? For the life of her, she couldn’t remember. She’d thought highly of the exhibit and the work of art, but now, funnily, couldn’t remember its name.
She knew it had been somewhere on exhibit in London before the war. Then, when the Nazi bombs started falling, it had been moved to a private collection outside the city.
At the end of the war, her husband had found it amid the ruins. Apparently, relocation hadn’t saved it from the bombs. After numerous thorough inquiries, no owner was found, so he had it shipped to the States.
Well, she wasn’t about to drop the conversation just because she couldn’t remember the name. Already, Alice had moved on to another topic, yet Mona wanted so much to show her the thing.
by P. R. O’Leary
On the ground floor, 192 stories down, Stig covered his head and face with the rainsuit hood and walked out into the street. The driving rain and heavy smog obscured his view, so the smell hit him first. He could never get used to it. Take every bad smell that comes out of a person’s body, multiply it by a billion, and sprinkle some landfills and industrial waste on top. That was the smell of the city. It was almost visible.
Even through the rain and smog and smell, Stig could see that the street was crowded with people, packed end-to-end as usual, bodies moving in every direction, pushing and jostling each other for space. Cars had long since become impractical, and the public Tubes were always out of commission, so they had no choice but to walk, especially in this area, characterized by people who had no other means besides their own two legs—and sometimes not even that.
Stig pushed through the crowd as the rain pounded the top of his head. There was no telling what anyone looked like below their rainsuits. People were making every effort to cover their skin, including him.
Most of Stig’s rainsuit had eroded down to the red warning layer, and in some places, the rain had eaten all the way through. His hands, arms, back, and face were covered in white scars where the water had seared his flesh. Stig couldn’t afford to patch the rainsuit anymore; good acid-blocking material was out of his price range. The adequate kind was, too.