Fiction: Pink Elephants
By Jack Moody
If the spiders wouldn’t bother him, Malcolm wouldn’t bother them. They were large and black and hairy, and they moved across the pervasive shadows of the underlit, single-room apartment like computer glitches, transporting between different spots on the walls and ceiling without use of their legs.
He knew that what he was holding was a .22 caliber pistol, and that the clip held ten bullets with an eleventh in the chamber, which to his understanding was cocked and loaded. He knew the pistol was purchased illegally and that the serial number had been scratched off with a razor blade removed from a lime green box cutter. He had never fired a gun, let alone held one, and had been surprised to learn how heavy and solid such a small object could be as it trembled against the sweat coating his palm and his fingers curled around its grip. He knew well enough from movies and pulp fiction novels that a .22 caliber bullet was unlikely to result in death unless aimed through the roof of the mouth at a forty-five-degree angle, providing the highest probability of severing the brain stem and exiting out cleanly through the base of the skull.
Malcolm had remained seated upon his soiled and bare mattress, his back against the corner of the room to allow the widest berth from the spiders, staring at the pistol in his hand for the last three hours. This was because the precision and focus that the act required was impossible in his current state. The severity of his tremors and convulsions made a proper suicide something akin to performing open-heart surgery after ingesting a handle of vodka—an experience he’d welcome like the gates of Heaven, if only for the brief respite it would provide from his symptoms.
The spiders warped and elongated along the walls, never remaining the same size, undulating or pulsing like an erratic lifeline monitor. They’d left him well alone, but his mother standing in the opposite corner seemed to welcome their company, as many would appear and disappear up and down her body, covering the gaping and bleeding hole in the side of her head whilst they briefly found a home upon her face.
“You’ll just fuck it up if you try,” said his mother. “You’ve failed everything you’ve ever attempted. This won’t be any different, Malcolm.”
“Shut up,” he said, studying the length of the barrel, refusing eye contact.
Grand mal seizures had come and gone about once every hour, he guessed, as the electronic alarm clock standing atop the cardboard box beside his mattress would read one time, and after blinking, it would read ten or fifteen minutes later as his blurred vision came back into focus, bringing with it a splitting headache and pains throughout his body that felt as if he’d just run a marathon in the unaccounted for moment spent outside consciousness.
“You’ll miss and blow off your jaw,” said his mother, the legs of a spider dangling over her bottom lip as it rested inside her slacked mouth. “No woman will ever love you. You’ll have to wear a bag over your head when you go out in public. A disfigured freak hiding from the world.”
“Shut up,” said Malcolm.
“There wasn’t a moment of hesitation for me. I had a plan and I executed it perfectly.”
“I know,” said Malcolm.
“You have too much of your father in you. You have coward’s blood. I can’t be blamed for your disappointment of a life. You would do well to remember that and thank your mother.”
Malcolm didn’t respond. The spiders were multiplying, eight-legged bodies erupting forth from one another like dividing cells across the ceiling.
“THANK YOUR MOTHER,” she screamed. Black ooze dribbled down her chin as the spider disappeared from her mouth, as if it had been reduced to liquid underneath the force of her vitriol.
Malcolm picked up the alarm clock and hurled it at his mother, but it passed through her stomach like a stone into the fog and crashed against the wall.
“Ungrateful, little boy,” she spat. “So ungrateful.”
Malcolm reached into his pocket to pull out his phone, and typed whr to cll if alchol withdraw into the Google search bar, his hands shaking too much to properly spell. Behind the cracks in the screen, he made out the first link with a number attached, and called, putting the phone on speaker and placing it upon his lap.
A young woman’s voice appeared, echoing against the walls: “Wayward Wind Rehab and Detox Clinic, who am I speaking to?”
“She can’t help you,” said his mother, the black liquid oozing down the side of her face from the open head wound.
“Malcolm,” he said. “I’m Malcolm.”
“Hi, Malcolm. What’s going on?”
“I feel sick. I’m having withdrawals. I need to know if I should go to a hospital.”
“They won’t save you,” said his mother.
“Okay. What are you withdrawing from, Malcolm?”
“Alcohol. I don’t feel well.”
“Okay. When was your last drink, Malcolm?”
“I don’t remember. This isn’t how I’m supposed to die. Do I need to go to a hospital?”
“She doesn’t care about you,” said his mother. “I care about you. Only your mother cares. But you won’t listen to me. You never listened to me.”
The sunlight behind the drawn shades of the sole window was disappearing behind the encroaching cloak of night. Shadows stretched across the ceiling and walls like an oil spill, and the spiders grew larger in size and number, strengthened by the darkness, coming closer, jumping in and out of reality as they approached.
“I can’t answer that without seeing you,” said the woman on the phone. “We have availability for inpatient treatment in the next two weeks. Do you have medical insurance?”
“Blood suckers,” his mother hissed across the room. “Death merchants. Sickness profiteers. Vampires.”
“I—that’s not what I’m asking,” Malcolm pleaded. “Just—can you help me? I don’t know what to do right now.”
“If you don’t, is there someone who can help you pay out of pocket? It’s a thousand dollars for a twenty-eight-day program. We can get you in in two weeks. But if you have medical insurance—”
Malcolm hung up.
“I can help you, son. Would you like Mommy to help you?”
Malcolm threw the phone at his mother, and again it passed through her forehead and shattered against the wall.
“Just like your father,” she growled. “Always asking to clean up your messes, but never taking the help WHEN IT’S OFFERED. DO YOU WANT MOMMY TO HELP YOU, SON?”
Malcolm watched the spiders surrounding him, their red eyes and long, black fangs visible just over his head. Sucking away his soul with their vacant glares. He could feel the particles of his being leaking out of him like a bloody nose, and floating up as a fine, gray mist, absorbing into their hairy bodies, filling them up and engorging them—hundreds of spiders hanging upside down directly above him on the ceiling, the size of human heads, blocking out any remaining light until the room was pitch black with a blanket of twitching, contorting creatures.
Through the stygian void, his mother stared. “Would you like this, sweetheart? Would you like Mommy to make it go away? To clean up your mess?” In her hand appeared a large bottle of vodka, glowing silver within the otherwise all-encompassing absence of light.
“No,” he said.
Her face twisted into a scowl, her yellow teeth bared like a rabid dog. “No? NO? YOU UNGRATEFUL, LITTLE BOY.” His mother launched across the room, her feet stamping upon the floor like exploding mortars. Thousands of little red eyes pierced through him like radioactive fallout from every corner of the room, the walls alive with spiders, squirming and shifting like one massive organism, collapsing in on him as she shrieked: “YOU WILL NEVER LEARN UNLESS I TEACH YOU. BUT YOU NEVER. FUCKING. LISTEN.” His mother’s face was an inch away from his, the putrid stench of death and decay leaking out from the rotting hole in her head, from the black ooze dripping from her teeth and leaking from her eyes. The only time he had ever seen his mother cry. “I’LL DO IT MYSELF. LIKE I ALWAYS DID.”
She grasped on to the pistol in his hand, spiders now crawling down her arm like real animals, leaping onto his chest and neck, the bristling hairs on their legs like hypodermic needles sinking into his flesh. The walls melted as the massive wave of creatures converged upon him from every direction. “HELP MOMMY HELP YOU.”
Through the blinding pain, the world around him sinking into a pool of black ooze and constricting, hairy limbs, Malcolm squeezed shut his eyes and pulled back the hammer.
The barrel plunged into his mother’s mouth, and erupted with a brilliant, white light. The clip unloaded into the back of her skull until he heard a click.
All at once, the weight of a thousand creatures lifted off his body. A sliver of yellow moonlight seeped into the room, glowing through his eyelids. Malcolm opened his eyes.
His mother stood before him, the miasma of pus and rotting meat evaporating behind the smell of gunpowder. A trickle of gray smoke floated up to the bare ceiling from the hole in her head. “Didn’t think you had it in you,” she said. She dissolved before him like dust blown away in the wind.
Malcolm sat up, upon the soiled mattress in the corner of his one-room apartment, alone.
Jack Moody is a novelist, poet, and short story writer from wherever he happens to be at the time. He is the author of the short stories collection Dancing to Broken Records, released through Beacon Publishing Group, as well as being a staff writer for the literary magazine and podcast Brick Moon Fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in multiple publications including Expat Press, Horror Sleaze Trash, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, and The Saturday Evening Post. Moody's forthcoming debut novel Crooked Smile is set to release March 15th, 2022 through Outcast-Press. He didn't go to college.