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.
Continue reading Stowaway
by Daniel Devine
I followed the signs along the tree-lined driveway to the visitors’ parking lot and pulled into one of the open spots. I beep-beeped my car alarm on, feeling a bit silly as I surveyed the expensive sports cars parked around me.
The cobblestone path leading from my car to the entrance passed through a small rest area featuring wrought iron benches and well-manicured flowerbeds. I paused for a moment to fight off a coughing spasm and made my way along the path. The silvery lobby doors resisted my first tug but swung open smoothly once I overcame their weight.
Just inside was a small sitting area, where black leather couches faced a huge flat-panel screen. A young, blonde receptionist—twenty-something and stunningly beautiful—sat behind a mahogany desk on the other side of the room.
Continue reading Clinical Trial
by Jason Thomas
“What the heck is that?”
Doug Vickers’s wary eyes fixated on the thin, crescent-shaped strip of metal in front of him.
“Oh, this little beauty just arrived today.” Dr. Hunsitt wore a grin like a kid in a candy store as he held up his latest gadget. “It’s called a ‘Sound and Phonetic Electronic Amplification Kit,’ or ‘SPEAK’ for short.”
“What does it do? Does it hurt?” The whir of a tiny drill answered ominously from the adjacent office, followed by the wet sucking sound of water and spit being siphoned.
Continue reading The SPEAK
by James Davies
One hundred and eighteen men died when the Kursk submarine exploded on August 12th, 2000. There were no reported survivors. Then again, I have a pretty forgettable face.
In London, every winter is cold. And expensive. It’s hard to get a job here, especially if you don’t officially exist. Back in the Motherland, I could’ve gotten a job easily, but I wasn’t going back.
So I had to resort to robbery again.
I dodged a double-decker bus as I crossed through the roaring traffic. A cyclist swore at me as he shot past, barely missing me. I considered violence, but dismissed it. Bigger things were at hand.
Continue reading Forgettable
In the Mirror, Darkly
by Milo James Fowler
The first time, he explained it away by saying he made faces while shaving because it was the only way to reach the stubble under his nose and around his jawline. Yet Maureen could have sworn he’d been horrified by his own reflection. Maybe he’d just discovered another gray hair.
“Hon?” She leaned against the bathroom door frame and watched him scrape his face with the razor, shoveling the foam like snow from the driveway of their western Michigan split-level.
“Yeah?” Dave paused, looking at her mirror image.
“You’d tell me if you were having a midlife crisis, wouldn’t you?”
“I wouldn’t have to.” He winked and resumed shaving.
Continue reading In the Mirror, Darkly
by Fredrick Obermeyer
Michael Kalderson screamed as he struggled to pass a kidney stone. Excruciating pain burned through his back, kidneys, and down the length of his urethra.
Sweat stood out on his forehead and his stomach twisted with nausea. He groaned and sagged against the bathroom wall, wishing that he could just die right then and there.
Why does all this have to happen to me? Michael thought.
He had never had much good luck in his life; it seemed like he was a walking shit magnet, attracting all the world’s troubles into his orbit. The kidney stones were just the latest incident in a seemingly endless string of bad luck.
Continue reading Better
The Haven City Incident
by Wendy Nikel
Tripping through the pitch-black, it took the small band of survivors hours to reach their destination. When they arrived, Kora put out her arm to stop Lex from running into her. He grunted as her hand jabbed into his belly. Tyrone punched him and raised an index finger to his lips.
Maybe Kora should have apologized, but she didn’t, not tonight. Tonight they’d search the factory and maybe eat some decent protein, even if it was in the form of coagulated meat which, before The Incident, she would have never touched.
Continue reading The Haven City Incident