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Flash Pulp 143 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 3 of 3

22 Mar

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and forty-three.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, The Murder Plague: Community, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3) Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Ladies Pendragon.

Find out more about their Pendragon Variety Podcast at http://pendragonvariety.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter finds himself suddenly in a trust-building exercise, while attempting to avoid the homicidal urges of Hitchcock’s Disease.

 

Flash Pulp 143 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

I drove the Escalade north, skirting the city, and pulled to a stop at Grant’s overlook. The spot was poorly maintained at the best of times, and park services had obviously been abandoned early in the ongoing cataclysm. The open, cracked, cement wore a crown of tall-grass, and the picnic table, along with its adjoining trash barrel, stood as lonely islands amongst the growth.

Jeremy, the first out, was eager to exit the vehicle and hunker down on the peeling bench. Alyssa, the blond woman, who I’d originally thought was Minnie’s mother, was the last to leave. She seemed to be lost in thought while scrutinizing my face, and it was only once she realized the teen-aged girl was already on the pavement that she also slid across the leather seats and dropped her slender legs to the ground.

I must admit, there was a temptation to simply roll up my window, wave a merry goodbye, and depart the area. We’d gotten this far without anyone making an effort to impale another with some makeshift weapon, and I was hesitant to risk breaking the streak.

The Murder PlagueStill, I let the engine die, then tucked the keys into my pocket. The doctor had attached a thin Swiss Army Knife to the chain, and I fumbled with it while I strolled to the group. I wasn’t eager to see if its tiny blade, and quite a bit of gumption, would be enough to overcome the strangers I’d found myself surrounded by.

We conducted a second round of introductions, more formally this time, then spent a moment in silence, watching the east end of the city as it was eaten by fire. I couldn’t process that the distant smoke was the cast off of the flame below – it felt as if I was watching my existence drifting high into the blue, where it was blown away in stringy-wisps.

It was Johanna who broke the silence, with a “Jeepers.”

I hadn’t had much opportunity to talk to the old girl at that point, and I didn’t know what to make of her floral print dress and utilitarian haircut. I hadn’t learned of her hidden flask yet.

“Well, we have a ride, just like you wanted,” Jeremy said, turning to Tyrone.

I wasn’t sure if it was a threat, or an assumption.

The codger harrumphed.

“You’ve been wanting to take a drive to this forgotten make-out spot?” I asked, raising an eyebrow at the odd pairing.

“What? No I mean -” It was Minnie, the teenager, who cut Jeremy short.

“Can we get a lift?” The girl used her interjection into the conversation as an excuse to get away from the slathering hugs that Alyssa had made repeated attempts to wrap her in.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could say no – to buy time, I mentioned that it didn’t strike me as likely that any specific corner of the apocalypse would be less exciting than the others.

“We want to head to the army roadblock at the state line,” she replied.

Now, you have to understand that the concept of a military blockade held a lot of implications in my mind. I’d spent no few hours walking the perimeters of such outposts, often while the starving folks I was on hand to protect moaned at the gate. As I stared down at the angry red patch creeping over the city, though, I was nothing but welcoming to the news that somewhere the old uniforms still held some starch.

Before I had a chance to grow misty-eyed with patriotism, Alyssa broke in.

She’d positioned herself by the now open trunk, and I couldn’t see what she might be holding in her fist.

“I don’t think we should go with him,” she spat, attempting to lock her free-hand’s fingers around Minnie’s elbow. “He just wants to take her away from us!”

Her traveling companions exchanged a glance that told me they’d come to the same conclusion that I had – the high tone she was using brought to mind the sort of squeaking self-assurance that a child gets when they think they’re in command of information unknown to anyone else.

Alyssa caught the pity in her friends’ eyes.

That’s when she beaned me with my own can of StarKist tuna.

It hurt, certainly, but I was glad that the puck-like container was what she’d come up with, and not, say, a handgun.

As I cradled my bleeding temple, Alyssa snatched up a a bottle of Ragu, raised it in a two-fisted grip, and rushed me.

It was Minnie who tripped her.

We had no rope, but the doc had left a varied collection of cellphone chargers in his glove compartment, and, as Jeremy and I used their retractable chords to create restraints, the others held her in place.

It was while watching her shrink in my rear-view mirror, writhing and screaming atop the picnic table, that I realized I was stuck with them: not because I liked them, but because I needed people around me willing to do the same if, and when, I too went over the edge.

 

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 142 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 2 of 3

19 Mar

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and forty-two.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, The Murder Plague: Community, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Ladies Pendragon.

Find out more about their Pendragon Variety Podcast at http://pendragonvariety.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter encounters a new obstacle to remaining alive in a world dominated by a homicidal epidemic.

 

Flash Pulp 142 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The wall of heat that was following the five strangers down the road was oppressive, and yet, bless their foolish hearts, they stopped to help me. There was little time for discussion, but, for whatever it was worth, Jeremy took up the hose attached to the Hernandezes, and started spraying the closest wall, while Johanna grabbed Baldy’s, and did the same for the other side.

I was grinning, I must admit. Human kindness can be quite touching when the majority of your interactions with other people lead to a murder attempt.

The remaining three looked up questioningly, having run out of reasonable water sources.

“There’s some food inside, it would probably be a good idea to grab as much as you think is suitable to travel, and relocate it to the trunk of the Escalade.”

To be fair, I wasn’t entirely swept away by their good will – I knew the keys were safely in my pocket.

The Murder PlagueTwo of the group, Minnie, no older than fourteen, and Alyssa, a blond woman just old enough to be mistaken as Minnie’s mother, began to transfer canned goods from my pantry to our escape method.

Through the process of elimination this left the laziest of the bunch, the old man, Tyrone, to make the introductions. After he provided a quick explanation of names, my throat was growing agitated from the heat and smoke, so I invited him up.

Once he’d topped the ladder, I asked the obvious.

“This may sound like an odd question, but aren’t you concerned I’m going to murder you?”

“Well, you had time and opportunity for a better set up than getting us up on your slick roof in hopes of an accident, and, really, no one locked in that whole murder or be murdered mindset shouts hello.” He had a point, but he pushed on with a grisly detail. “I was trying to save my place before it went up as well – you’ll see, as the fire gets closer a lot of these garage doors will burst open and the last of the rats that have been hiding inside, instead of helping you, will abandon ship.”

It wasn’t something I’d considered – frankly, I’d thought Baldy to be amongst the last.

I nodded, sloshing tepid water across the tiles.

“Where do those kind of paranoids lodge? The Bates Motel, I suppose,” continued Tyrone.

He went on, but I don’t really recall the dialogue. Despite the approaching crackle, and the marching pop of backyard barbecues, he’d immediately fallen into a posture that I can only imagine was familiar to his normal life: idle conversation while watching others work.

He talked, and we scurried about, and it all amounted to about the same anyhow: it was obvious well before any flames touched my house that it was a lost cause.

Minnie and Alyssa had joined us by then, helping share some of the brunt of Tyrone’s unceasing prattling, and Alyssa specifically struck me as having a solid handle on how to direct his energies.

“Shut up and do something useful,” she’d said while clearing the final rung onto the roof.

It wasn’t an easy decision – it felt as if I was abandoning the memory of my wife to smolder with the rest of my possessions, and it stung to think that Rebecca, should she ever come looking, would find no home to return to. There was no real option, however, and I could almost hear Kate’s voice, as it had been just before her death, calling me an ornery mule for having waited so long.

It was the grinding of an automatic garage door, followed by the swift departure of a white, bloody-windowed, Lexus, that finally sold me. If even the crazies knew it was time to go, I reasoned, so should I.

“I believe we ought to be rambling on.” I announced, making sure my volume would carry the words to the two still on the ground.

We descended, and began to take up our places within the stolen vehicle I’d so quickly fallen into the mindset of calling my own.

Jeremy was the last straggler, and his reply reminded me oddly of my daughter.

“Screw that man, we can totally do this.”

A small explosion two doors down rained flaming debris across my back-deck, and there was no need for further argument – though he did find reason to complain when he finally arrived at the SUV, as all of the plush leather seats had been occupied.

He’d opened the rear door where Minnie and Alyssa sat, side-by-side, and there was something in his weighing gaze that I did not enjoy.

“You can sit on the old man’s lap,” I said, reaching across Tyrone – who’d presumptively taken the front-passenger seat – and opening the door. I began rolling slowly away from the curb in encouragement.

He hopped in, yanking the handle shut.

As the pair exchanged awkward glances in their new-found intimacy, I peeled away from my doomed lawn, eager to be gone before I could consider what I was leaving behind.

 

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 141 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 1 of 3

16 Mar

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and forty-one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, The Murder Plague: Community, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Ladies Pendragon.

Find out more about their Pendragon Variety Podcast at http://pendragonvariety.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter encounters a new obstacle to remaining alive in a world dominated by a homicidal epidemic.

 

Flash Pulp 141 – The Murder Plague: Community, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The exhaustion from my initial foray into Murder-Plague survival was overwhelming, and, when sleep finally found me, I was out like a college freshman on the opening day of spring break. The rest did me good.

When I awoke, my immediate thought was for my wayward daughter.

I knew Doc Henley, rotting away in his living room, had little use for the Escalade he had once used to putter between his home and his practice, so I stepped into the crisp morning, noted that I had no paper awaiting me on the doorstep, then crossed the street. On my way, I caught a strong whiff of smoke, and had an opportunity to get a sunlit look at the blackened plank-teeth that made up the remnants of the residence five down from my own. I didn’t realize then how lucky I’d been that the place had guttered, instead of sharing its fiery bounty with its neighbors.

I started my search of the doctor’s bungalow by ransacking every room that didn’t contain the man I’d killed, then, once I was sure that it was the only option, I entered his death chamber. His corpse lay across his white leather couch, just as I’d left it, and he put up little fuss as I rifled his personal materials – even when we were forced to become more intimate than I was comfortable with. Now, so long after, I can still tell you with confidence that his keys were in the right-hand pocket of his khaki slacks.

The Murder PlagueThe second excursion was nothing like the first. I’d learned my lesson, and didn’t allow myself to get caught up in the business of others. In truth, while passing the few pedestrians brave, or sick, enough to risk the sidewalks, I had a terrible urge to gun the engine – but I was just as worried that someone might take it as an act of war, and start tossing bullets my way in plague-fueled paranoid-reflex.

It’s also worth mentioning, however, that politeness seemed generally at an all time high, as a survival instinct. There were no tailgaters during Hitchcock’s – or, if there were, they’d been quickly eliminated via unnatural selection.

The house in which my daughter had been squatting was empty when I arrived. I loitered for a while, hoping she’d return, but it was obvious that Becky had taken everything of use and departed. I sat on her borrowed bed for a while, considering the situation.

Had Rebecca left because, somewhere in her infected brain, she knew that I would return, and she didn’t want to be responsible for my death? Or was she lurking, awaiting an opportunity to do me in?

Eventually the thoughts chased me home, where they were immediately displaced by an entirely different set of concerns.

When I’d stepped onto the roadway that morning I’d assumed the tickle at my nose was the smouldering pile down the street – as I approached, this poor reasoning was corrected by a wall of smoke marching out of the west.

I parked the Escalade on the pavement, facing east.

The issue was the wind. The smoke, and the flame, were being carried along by a stiff breeze, and, as I clambered over my rooftop with the garden hose, hoping to dampen things enough to keep my suburban castle safe, the exploding propane tanks of my neighbours’ barbecues provided a sort of “from the lightning till the clap” method of measuring the time I had till the fire was upon me. It was obvious within an hour of my return that the situation was getting out of hand.

As I stood on the soaked shingles, pondering my predicament, Mr Baldy came bursting from his home. Not his real name, of course, but I’d never introduced myself to the family on the side of the house opposite the Hernandezes’. As I raised a hand in greeting, I realized that he was alone – that is, without his wife or trio of sons. In response his own fingers went to a gun tucked into his belt, and it took no further encouragement to send me hurtling to the far side of the peak.

I was pleased when the next sound to reach me was his car starting, and not the clanking of a ladder.

Once he was well gone, I picked up my rubber spout and took stock of my corner of the apocalypse.

The air was getting thick, and dancing red was clearly visible beneath the gouts of black that blanketed the western horizon. Before I could decide it was a good time to follow Baldy’s exit, I noticed a cluster of five, prowling down the road like traumatized cats.

They moved slowly, with a motley array of weaponry in their fists, and their heads were constantly craning about to scan the surrounding doorways.

It says something about how quickly I’d become acclimatized to a terrible situation that I was surprised to see a group of people not occupied with attempting to kill each other.

With Baldy in mind, I damned my idiotic need for company, then bellowed a hello.

 

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 117 – The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 3 of 3

15 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and seventeen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Dancing Ella’s Words.

As Marianne Moore once said “Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.”

Find Ella’s poems and prose at http://dancingella.blogspot.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, after a brush with death, Harm Carter briefly enjoys a family reunion.

 

Flash Pulp 117 – The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

My relationship with my daughter, Rebecca, had long been rocky. Our grief at Kate’s death had carried us down two very different paths, but they had both ended at a similar destination: I chose to blame myself, and she did the same, following it up with the kind of verbal lashing that only a thirteen year old, with a justifiable excuse, can lay down. Oh, there’s nothing I could have done to stop the cancer, but I’d finished the burial with a two week attempt to climb out of my depression on a ladder fashioned from vintage Merlot bottles, and Becky was left to fend for herself.

The thing is, I didn’t really notice the resentment until I’d grown tired of waking up with a case of what my Pa used to call the Irish flu. I’d been too embarrassed of my condition to let Rebecca witness much of my stumbling, and, when I finally decided to engage in a little sobriety, I found my girl was no longer the princess I’d knew. She became a fiery crusader for something akin to the resurrection of the temperance movement, blamed me for the decadence of capitalism, and began to spend more and more time with a new friend she’d met who felt likewise, after her own father had beaten her mother into six months of physical rehabilitation.

After release from the hospital, on the proceeds of her divorce, the woman and her daughter had relocated into a neat white two-story house, and it was there that Becky had spent most of her slumber parties, and did the majority of her growing up. It wasn’t easy to spend half a decade feeling as if I was being compared to a rage-happy, poker-wielding, wife-beater, but it certainly kept me largely sober.

It was especially tough, as Ms. Robbins, the survivor, was an abnormally nice lady. She often sent my wayward daughter home with cookies, and they always tasted as if they were sugared by pixies and baked in sunshine.

When I’d decided I needed a week at the cabin, Rebecca had required no convincing to call Dinah to ask her mother. Before I left, I’d formulated a plan to hopefully buy back some of the Robbins’ esteem, with the gift of a handsome grandfather clock, purchased at an antique store I was familiar with along my route. I’d been so eager, I’d made the stop on my way in, and the monster had sat in the back of the Explorer for the length of my sabbatical. Unfortunately, upon my return I’d encountered the results of Hitchock’s, and the would-be-heirloom passed out of my hands and into someone’s backyard pool, along with the rest of my stolen truck.

My four hour walk to the Robbins’ house had been quiet, however, as the ten year old who’d made off with my vehicle seemed the last person, other than myself, ridiculous enough to venture out after dark during a homicidal apocalypse.

The march had given me plenty of time to think.

The Murder PlagueIf she was infected, Rebecca would eventually attempt to kill me. She might even if she was healthy. There was some chance that I could subdue her, then find a way to keep her alive by force feeding, but if she was sick, I’d become sick too – assuming I wasn’t already. What if she was fit and fine, and I accidentally contaminated her?

What if she was already dead?

One of the main things they’d taught me in my army days was not to wander around shouting hello. I’d managed to explore the entirety of the Robbins’ main floor before I discovered Rebecca, standing at the head of the flight of stairs that lead to the second.

At first, she stayed at the top, and I remained at the bottom.

“Hello, Dad.”

“Hi. I missed you. Are you okay? Where’s Dinah?”

“I’m fine – have you been to the basement?”

“No?” I hadn’t flipped on any switches while conducting my search, and the only light was directly above her on the landing. The shadows obscured her face. “Are you sure you’re all right? Where are the Robbins?”

“I missed you too.” She brushed back her hair, and smiled. She hadn’t smiled at me in five years – I had to cough to cover that I was tearing up. “and the cabin too – It was a bit surprising, actually. I was thinking maybe in the spring you could take me up to open it with you?”

I longed for that shack, and I’d just left that morning. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but it was actually at least five – two of which had ended in my own self defense.

I was thinking of what I’d had to do to my cook, Catarina, specifically, and I recall selfishly wishing I could grab up Becky, permanently borrow a car, and head back into the hills.

“Remember when we used to go fishing, Dad?” she asked, her feet dipping down a step.

“Of course I do, ragamuffin,” I replied.

I could also recollect my discovery of George Hernandez earlier, in the evening. He’d been hanged dead with the contents of his own tackle box.

“We should get out of here now,” I continued. “Things aren’t safe. We can drive up tonight, grab some supplies on the road, and bury ourselves in snow up at the lodge. We can deal with what’s left of the world after the melt.”

She took another step, excited and beaming.

“Sure! We don’t need to go shopping, though” she replied, “I’ve got plenty of supplies – in the basement.”

That was the last I could take. She’d made it that far without me, she’d have to continue to do so, at least for a little while.

“Okay, great. I’ll go check on those, and be right back.”

I bolted for the door.

There was no other option – she was infected. I could stay and somehow continuously talk my way out of whatever death-trap she’d concocted in the basement, all the while trying not to think too hard on what exactly she’d done to the house’s other occupants, but in the end I’d only become as sick, and that wasn’t a situation I could accept. I might be able to forgive her a few unintentional murders, but I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.

After a few blocks I realized she hadn’t bothered to chase me. Really, it saddened me somehow.

It took me six hours to walk home, the majority of which was spent swinging between elation at Becky’s continued survival, and utter despair at our predicament. It took another two hours to finally clean up to the mess I’d left in the kitchen.

I dug Catarina a shallow grave under the rising sun, took a shower, locked the doors, turned on the alarm, and bawled myself to sleep.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Many thanks to Wood, of Highland & Wood, for the intro bumper. You can find their podcast at bothersomethings.com

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 116 – The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 2 of 3

13 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and sixteen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Dancing Ella’s Words.

Enjoy the cream of Viennese culture, but without the jet lag – or the TSA grope down.

Find her work at http://dancingella.blogspot.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter is forced to make a sudden stop, during the apocalypse.

 

Flash Pulp 116 – The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

I was three blocks shy of getting on the highway when it struck me: a brick. Well, to be fair, it ricocheted off the passenger-side door.

I’d been turning at a corner, and the action on the cross street had been hidden from me by the darkness and a row of poorly-maintained hedges. The slab wasn’t the only thing to impact the car, either – its target was close behind. His shorts were billowing, and his t-shirt looked as if it had been designed by an unstable Bonobo, but there’s something pathetic, and mildly endearing, about the way a ten year old can plaster his pudgy face across a window that you just won’t see when a grown man does the same.

The woman behind him – the irate lobber – came pumping down the street, her legs short, but vigorous, and her arms extended in a way that made it clear she was on a mission to strangle. Collecting himself, the lad yanked at the handle and hopped into the passenger seat.

In response, I gunned the Explorer’s engine.

I wasn’t considering where we were going, I just wanted to put some distance between my passenger and Grabby.

There’s something off-putting about seeing any child out after dark, and this was my first taste of basic violence on the open street. For the umpteenth time that night, I was shaken. The problem with a virus that turns everyone around you into a homicidal lunatic is that there’s never really a moment to relax.

Well, I mean, one of the problems.

The Murder PlagueI took a left, then a right, then a left – just to be sure the choke-ist wasn’t going to make a horror film villain’s sudden reappearance out of the shadows – then I paused at a red light.

I turned to my fare and asked his name.

“Tobias, sir,” he replied.

I’ve always been a sucker for a civil tongue.

“Well, Tobias, did you happen to know your intended throttler?” I asked.

“Yes, she’s my oldest sister.”

I nodded, my brain running over the possibilities of where I might drop him off. I’d seen the local fire department in action recently, or, at least, what was left of them, so I wasn’t keen to entrust him to their axe-happy hands. I’d also guessed that the police were likely just as badly off, but with guns.

Before I could summon the wits to ask him if he had any family who wouldn’t murder him, his face dropped, and tears began to dampen his vulgarly coloured tee. He thrust out his arms in a simple gesture I’d seen a hundred times from Rebecca, when she was a little girl. Physics has yet to calculate the force of gravitation that a child in need can generate on a heart – even a heart like the one propping up an old ruffian such as myself.

“Come now,” I said.

I reached across the console with a hug.

Later into things, I met a woman who’d set up her car as if she’d had engine trouble. She’d go so far as to get some passing fool to stop and stick his head under the hood, then she’d slam it down on them and finish the job with a flat-head screwdriver. After stuffing the poor schmuck in a nearby culvert, she’d roll their jalopy into a treed gully across the road, wipe her bumper clean, and start the whole process over again. When I asked her, at gun point, how she could possibly explain such a thing, she told me it was because she was sure they’d all intended on making off with the aqua Nissan hatchback.

Oddly, that was exactly my intention.

My point, however, is that, even despite the complex paranoia that is brought on by the plague, children are simple, and they seek simplicity.

Two things happened at the same time: the image of my neighbour’s youngest came to mind, her fingers entangled in the fishing line I’d found her father strangled with; and I felt Tobias’ weight shift awkwardly in my hold.

My ribs suddenly feeling exposed, I pushed the boy away, unbuckled my belt for freer access – or possibly due to a sudden attack of claustrophobia – and, in my sudden need for space, accidentally dropped my foot solidly onto the gas.

As the acceleration pushed him into his seat, I identified his weapon of choice: a thick Swiss army knife, the longest of the blades extended. It was either rusty, or blood encrusted.

I slammed on the brakes, hoping it might stun him into dropping the thing. He barely winced as he bounced off the glove compartment, then he came at me over the gear shift.

What could I do, kill him? As I struggled with his raised hand, the crude string of suggestions he made regarding my heritage made it pretty clear he wouldn’t stop unless I did.

After a moment of consideration, I made a hard choice.

I stepped out of the car.

Well – I suppose that sounds a little more elegant than the reality. I popped open the door and fell out, backwards, as the Explorer continued on at a power-walker’s pace.

Rather than chase me onto the road, little Toby decided he rather liked the feel of the steering wheel. It was stop and go at first, but after a moment he gained in confidence, and started to swing the truck into a wide turn. He didn’t seem terribly concerned about the well-manicured front yard he tore up along the way.

I began to run.

It was a near thing, but I lost him after he blindly bulled through a row of mahogany-stained pool fencing, and landed himself in the shallow end of someone’s cement pond.

Still, I didn’t stop moving until I’d reached the babysitter’s house.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Many thanks to Wood, of Highland & Wood, for the intro bumper. You can find their podcast at bothersomethings.com

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 115 – The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 1 of 3

10 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifteen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Dancing Ella’s Words.

As Oscar Wilde famously said: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”

Find her work at http://dancingella.blogspot.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter takes a moment to seek sanctuary while considering his difficult situation, and attempting to avoid assassination at the hands of any passing stranger.

We’d also like to take a moment to thank Highland & Wood for their excellent audio intro – you can find their podcast, Bothersome Things, at bothersomethings.com

 

Flash Pulp 115 – The Murder Plague: Caretaking, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

It’s hard to explain how I felt once I was back on the road. It was as if I was part of a great ballet – or, really, as if I was at a costume ball, with all of the dancers masked, and each moving to their own rhythm.

Was the man across from me at the stoplight an infected lunatic plotting to bury his wife in a backyard flowerbed, or was he simply a harried fellow out to pick up a quart of milk? Was the lady deep in conversation at the corner really discussing the cost of a sausage with the vendor, or was she attempting to determine if her dinner had been poisoned by a plague-ridden paranoiac?

I’ve never been much of a religious man – doubly not-so once Kate died – but, after a few blocks of aimless driving, I realized shock had my hands shaking at the wheel, and, at that moment, the rolling bell of a heavenly summons came peeling from a house of prayer to my left.

I wasn’t raised Catholic, but, in that instant, I was willing to grasp at any higher power that might have me.

Pulling into the parking lot that fronted the gray-faced building, I found all of the spaces empty, and yet the broad wooden doors were pinned open.

Honestly, I don’t know what I expected inside – I do recall feeling some relief that I hadn’t encountered a crowd of parishioners, as they would have likely turned into a riotous brawl before the communion was delivered. What I did find, instead, was silence and vacant pews.

As was tendency in my schoolboy days, I took a seat on the rearmost bench.

I was stalling, I suppose – I knew I needed to get to Rebecca’s babysitter’s, but I wasn’t keen on what I might discover there. It was the inevitable that had me tripped up – what if I did find her, alive but as sick as the rest?

The problem was a drain my mind couldn’t quite finish circling on its own, and I would have likely spent a few hours in further consideration if it wasn’t for the priest’s interruption.

He was a short man, and I hadn’t noticed him standing behind the lectern; or possibly he’d moved to the position while my brain was off wandering. His hair was wild, but his face – it seemed as if his face had been molded by a lifetime of smiling, as if he could do little else, even in those deadly times, after having formed such a long standing habit.

“You look troubled,” he said, his practiced voice easily carrying down the long red carpet of the center aisle.

“Well, to be fair, these are troubling times,” I replied.

“What is weighing on you?” he asked. It struck me as a bit of a personal question for such a great distance – but, on the other hand, I could only imagine the kind of confessions he must have been hearing at that point, and didn’t blame him for wanting to maintain the separation.

“Oh, just tough decisions to be made, I suppose.”

He nodded, apparently taking more from my words than I’d meant for him to.

“Yes, it is a time full of tough decisions,” he answered. Even as he said it, he continued to maintain that empty imitation of a smirk, and it was then that I realized his hands had been out of sight, below the pulpit, for the length of our brief discussion.

The Murder PlagueBack in my fighting days I knew a fellow who’d been a stand up comedian before his chronically-broke status had forced him to enlist. I only found him funny when we were under fire, and the more determination the other side demonstrated, the faster he would spit out gags.

He was killed when he strayed into a bullet, while imitating a goat.

There was something about the clergyman’s expression that reminded me of that joker – a mix of intense panic layered under a survival instinct of good humour.

I cleared my throat.

“Actually, you’ve helped me make my choice. Many thanks, Padre.”

I stood.

“I have?” He was surprised at the news, but, for a moment at least, I think his smile became genuine.

“Yes, sir – and I’m off to do something about it.” I started edging past the bulletin boards and abandoned collection baskets, wondering if his improved mood would last for the duration of my exit.

His arms remained fixed, and his hands remained hidden.

“A final bit of advice then, to carry with you as you go,” he interrupted, his grin collapsing. “Sometimes the only choice is the lesser of two evils.”

Frankly, it was that sort of simplistic advice that had put me off of churches in the first place.

I waved in agreement, then hustled through the vestibule and down the short flight of cement steps, pleased to see the street empty of pedestrians.

I was in the middle of a hearty round of self-congratulations regarding my narrow escape as I reached my car door – and that’s when I heard a single gunshot echo from the still-gaping entranceway.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Text and audio commentary can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or call the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

Big thanks go to Highland & Wood for the audio introduction – you can find their fantastic Bothersome Things podcast at bothersomethings.com

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 108 – The Murder Plague: Emergency Response, Part 1 of 1

17 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eight.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Emergency Response, Part 1 of 1
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Bothersome Things Podcast

Sort of like the Dukes of Hazzard, but with more naughtiness, and less jumping cars.

Subscribe via iTunes, or find everything you’ve ever wanted to be bothered by at BothersomeThings.com

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter attempts to make a difficult phone call, mid-apocalypse.

 

Flash Pulp 108 – The Murder Plague: Emergency Response, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Unsure of how to proceed – given that anyone I might encounter would be infected, and, thus, likely to make an attempt on my life – I opted to continue with my original plan of contacting the authorities. Reaching across the corpse of the doctor, I lifted his portable phone from its charging base. That’s when I heard a low rumble.

The roads had been very quiet since I’d found myself participating in the end of the world, so the sound of an approaching engine, a large one, was enough to draw me to the living room’s bay window, even before I could dial.

From around the corner of my curved suburban street came a firetruck, which roared to a halt in front of a lawn five houses down the row, on the opposite side of the pavement.

The Murder PlagueIt was a two-story home, as was, frankly, every residence in the cookie-cutter neighbourhood, and, as the fire engine came to a stop, a blond woman in a nightgown appeared at a second floor window. Her body language told me she was pleading for assistance from the new arrival, but I could hear little through the distance and thick glass.

For a moment I held out hope that a squad of hazmat besuited professionals would begin piling out of the red truck, like clowns out of a car, but instead the vehicle seemed to carry only its driver, a fresh faced young fellow in a black uniform adorned with a red emblem and a name tag.

His thick arms and well-cropped hair were calender material, certainly, and I can only assume he meant well as he jogged to the front door in response to the calls.

It was unlocked, and, as he moved inside, I lost sight of him. At the same moment, though, the woman came into view, once again at her dormer. She rushed the pane open, and exited onto the roof, then, on hand and knee, she scrambled towards the peak.

Although I did not recognize the female, I could readily identify the man that followed her – he was a rotund neighbour of mine, easily recognizable from his nightly habit of standing in his garage with the door up, a beer in his hand and an eager word on his lips for any who might share in his sudsy bounty.

We’d never exchanged conversation beyond hellos, but he’d seemed friendly enough – at least until he appeared with a sizable knife in his hand.

He was nearly onto the roof when the fireman took the upper floor and began yanking bodily at the attacker’s ankles. It was an ill conceived plan, and within moments the aggression had been turned from the lady bestriding the house, and onto the would-be rescuer.

As the pursuit moved into the interior, I could not make out its particulars – I did, however, witness its conclusion: the younger of the pair either jumped, or was thrown, from the same window that the woman had earlier used in her escape.

He fell flat onto the grass, lucky to have partially landed on an Azalea bush.

Pulling himself to his feet, he picked up speed as he approached the truck and removed a fire axe from a side compartment. Still, the beer-lover was quick to return to his hunt. He was halfway onto the roof when the woman acted, slamming down the heavy window frame, and pinning her assailant in place before he could bring his weapon around.

The blade swung wildly, but the makeshift trap held.

Noting the change in fortunes, the firefighter seemed to rethink his plan. He moved back to the truck and detached a ladder, which he set at the side of the house. With one eye on the ensnared, and his axe still in hand, he pulled himself up. The woman didn’t seem to notice the approach until the climber neared, and she was only a few feet away as his head cleared the gutters.

There was a quick exchange then, words I couldn’t hear, and the axe was thrown some distance onto the roof, likely in an effort to prove good intention.

With a lightning-fast shuffle, she pressed her slippered foot hard against the top most rung, and the ladder drifted out into space, paused briefly at its apex, then toppled backwards.

The second fall was less lucky, as the arc of his platform carried him away from the grass and hedges, and instead hoisted him over the much firmer roadway.

I think that must have been when the paranoiac distrust that is the prime symptom of the plague conquered his underlying desire to help. To be fair, it’s tough to call it paranoia when you’re chased out of a second story window by a three-hundred pound man wielding a cleaver.

He was raging loudly as he rose, a fist pumping the air towards the still watching woman.

With his axe on the roof, I suppose he went with the weapon closest at hand: the truck.

The crash must have ruptured a gas pipe, as the home, with only a foot or so of the red behemoth’s tail still protruding, immediately began to smoke and flame.

I dropped the phone and made for my car.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 102 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return, Part 3 of 3

4 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and two.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 3 of 3
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method and Other Stories”.

Sure, sacrificing one of your kidneys to keep a loved one alive would be a touching Christmas gift, but wouldn’t this award-winning selection of short tales just be easier?

Find it on Amazon, or find links to special editions and more at http://oldenoughnovel.blogspot.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm has a discussion regarding the madness that seems to have descended upon his hometown of Mass Acres; a discussion which leads to further unpleasant realizations.

 

Flash Pulp 102 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

It’s a rough go to take in the death of three people you knew, much less in the space of fifteen minutes. The sight of a familiar face, especially one that could still intake breath and feasibly even provide some explanation as to what had brought on such murderous intention in Catarina and the Hernandez family, left me considerably more eager for the company of the ivory-haired Doctor Henley than I’d ever been previously.

I did my best to pull myself together, then trotted across the road to his doorstep.

He let me in, then promptly returned to his viewing post.

The doctor’s house was orderly, his white faux-leather couch, and matching living room, spotless. Across the glass top of the coffee table lay a spread of outdated National Geographic magazines, and his beige walls were decorated with carefully generic landscape paintings.

It is hard to describe the feeling of suddenly finding myself in that apparently unchanged center of calm. It was something like stumbling from a war zone into a Zen Buddhist’s garden.

As I’ve mentioned, I knew few of my neighbours, but, in truth, Henley was likely the person in town I’d known the longest, as he was my own physician. Still, despite his intimacy with my intimates – or, likely, due to – I’d rarely spoken to him outside of the context of his office, which was also garnished with white faux-leather.

He began to fix me a drink as I entered, which I was too polite to refuse, having never told him about my need to refrain, and I shuffled aside a full-cover spread of the pyramids to make room to set it down.

It seemed little use dancing around the subject, so I began with the news I thought he’d find easiest to take.

“The Hernandezes are dead.”

He nodded, raising his own glass as if to salute them. After a moment he cocked an eyebrow at my abstention, then drank deeply. Finally, he spoke.

“It doesn’t surprise me much. I noticed your car’s been gone these last few days – you’ve been away?”

“Yes, I’ve been camping at the cabin.”

Since I’d been forced to depart my home, my mind had been grinding over the reason behind Catarina’s sudden betrayal. Part of my subconscious had become convinced that nuclear annihilation was imminent, and that she’d simply been conducting the ultimate work-related revenge fantasy. Certainly, if she had some concern about her pay, I’d have preferred she issue a complaint than attempt to lodge a chef’s knife in my ribcage. After finding the Hernandezes in their decomposing state, however, I was beginning to understand that some larger tragedy was in motion.

The doctor confirmed my fears.

“They named it Hitchcock’s disease,” said Henley, “although it’s really a virus. It lays dormant for a few weeks after infection, then begins to work at the survival instincts of the brain. The infected suffers paranoid delusions, and soon after believes the people around them are plotting their demise. They become convinced that the only way to prevent their own death is to murder the other fellow first.”

The Murder PlagueThe doctor finished his glass, and, I must admit, I was mightily tempted to take up my own. He seemed to be watching me closely – I couldn’t blame him, considering.

“Is there no cure? No way to stop it?”

“Oh, yes,” he continued to speak as he left the room. “There is a vaccine. It’s a slow thing, and so civilized in a way. Usually the survivor tries to conceal their crime – the police of course being just another party attempting to do them in.”

He returned, setting a briefcase down on the the gathered faces of a group of aboriginals.

“It takes contact though – contact and opportunity. You can likely still safely order a pizza, if you don’t stop to chat with the delivery guy long enough to give him ideas. Even then, so long as you don’t provide him an opening, and don’t order from that location again, you can probably say your goodbyes and not be concerned.”

As he continued his narration, he pulled back his sleeves and extracted a pair of latex gloves from the interior of his case.

“Yet, if you’re brave enough to leave your window ajar in the evenings, you will hear the sound of shovel-work emanating from many darkened backyards.”

I asked him about the police.

“Well, there’s no television or Internet to deliver the news, but you don’t hear sirens too often either, so I suspect they’re all too busy murdering their families to deal with the public,” was his reply.

He held up a syringe and vial, then jabbed one into the other. Pulling out the painful end, he motioned for me to roll up my sleeve.

I did so.

He leaned over his working area, a thumb pressing at my forearm in search of a vein. He held the needle aloft.

I do not remember fully forming my reasoning, but my hand moved faster than my brain; I plucked the instrument from his fingers with the speed of a child snatching back its favourite toy from a sibling.

In a single motion, I righted the device and thrust it into his leg, fully depressing the plunger.

“I apologize,” I said immediately. “Consider it a game of trust, as I’ve never heard of a vaccine upon which you can overdose.”

He may have attempted to stand and reply, or he may have been attempting to retrieve some tool with which to beat me, whatever the case, he never made it upright. Instead he toppled sideways onto the milky expanse, and, after a moment, a line of bloody drool began to trickle from his gaping mouth.

I had learned the prime lesson of the murder plague: think, at all times, like a person who wishes to murder you.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return, Part 2 of 3

2 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method and Other Stories”.

An award-winning book of short tales that will make you cry with its tender moments – and by repeatedly punching you in the belly.

Find it on Amazon, or find links to special editions and more at http://oldenoughnovel.blogspot.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter attempts to locate a telephone with which to report a death by wine magnum.

 

Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

I’ve never been much for fraternizing with the neighbours, but after spending over a decade in one location you can’t help but meet on occasion.

In truth, I rather liked the Hernandezes.

On a particularly chill night, two years previous to the evening of my return from the cabin, Mr Hernandez – George – had spotted my shivering form awaiting a locksmith to remedy the puzzle I’d presented myself by accidentally bolting my keys on the far side of the front door. He’d kindly invited me inside his own home, and, as he prepared a pot of coffee to resuscitate my partially frozen internals, I’d had a rather pleasant discussion with his wife, his daughter, and himself, regarding the vagaries of fly fishing. The trio were obsessive anglers, and even Velma, fifteen – who I, at first, thought might be simply providing a submissive echo of her parent’s enthusiasm – seemed to show a genuine interest in netting maximum fish flesh. I’ve long enjoyed the pleasures of others, and the more intense their mania, the more I take from it. Anyone with a ferocious regard for what occupies their free time is usually willing to provide a cheap education on the topic, and an understanding of all things is what I have a ferocious regard for.

By the time of the smith’s summons I felt as if I’d waded through the streams of Montana, and the Dakotas, myself.

The Murder PlagueI was not surprised, therefore, when, on my final visit, I found their door ajar and a bountiful supply of gear apparently on its way to, or from, some distant lake or river. I normally might have considered the disarray of the luggage and rods as unkempt, but my mind was largely occupied with the ugly fact that I’d recently laid Catarina, my now former chef, in her death bed by means of blunt trauma. As I clumped up the cobblestone walk in my hiking boots, I formulated how I would frame the discussion required to use their phone. In retrospect, I’m sure they would have let me use it readily, but in dire situations I find it helpful to let my mind grind over fine details, instead of circling the unalterable.

Having encountered no one to deliver my prepared speech to though, I found myself somewhat flustered as to how to proceed.

However, the predicament seemed dramatic enough to warrant my pushing onwards, although I announced my self-welcome liberally.

I attempted to strike a balance in my tone between friendly and I’ve-just-had-to-kill-someone.

“Hallo, Hernandezes!”

Night had again fallen, and the only lighting in the interior came spilling up from the half-spiral staircase which led from the basement, illuminating a long tract of pictures depicting smiling fish-slayers and their captured prey. Atop the photos, curving with the adjoining wall, ran a series of especially prized, but now retired, rods.

I’ve never been squeamish about the individual death of a bass, and my reaction was likely tempered by recent events, but I found it difficult to stare down so many suffocating fillets at once. Casting my eyes up the second half of the spiral, I came across what I, at first, thought was an optical illusion.

There appeared to be a man standing directly above me, but his shoes were slightly askew, as if he were on tip-toe.

“George?” I asked the hovering fellow.

I began striding up the steps.

It was obvious well before I reached landing that he was in no condition to talk; his face was black and bloated. It was also at that time that I realized the Hernandezes did not have a carpet running along the stairs, but that I was in fact tromping through a thick path of what I rather suspected was dried blood.

My legs found it quicker to finish the journey than to reverse, so I suddenly found myself on the second floor. Forcing my eyes into a closer inspection of George, I noted that he’d had several loops of high-test fishing line wrapped about his neck before apparently being pushed over the edge of the railing which overlooked the entryway below. The loose end was tied about a lighting sconce, which had pulled away from its upper-moorings under the weight.

I could not help but feel better illumination was necessary when dealing with the likelihood of an executioner lurking about, so I was forced to flip the sole switch that I could locate, the one which engaged the awry fixture.

Laying not five feet further down the short hallway was the body of Velma, a cracked oaken plaque with a sizable Marlin mounted across its front masking her face and the point of trauma which had disgorged so much of her cranial matter across the closest wall.

As I began to retrace my path, my eyes ran over the boning knife still held solidly in the girl’s right hand. My inspection had turned up no evidence of such a wound on the first body along my approach, and a hypothesis quickly began to form.

Given the scale of the operation, and the size of George, I could only guess that a third party was involved in the lynching, and that the unseen conspirator – the one who’d left their vitals pouring down the staircase – had, for whatever reason, soon after received the long end of Velma’s blade. The injured had likely then retaliated at the betrayal by clubbing the girl with the nearest heavy object, the wall ornament.

I suspected that the absent party was Mrs. Hernandez, and, further, as I could clearly see from over the edge of the hanged man’s perch that the descending trail lead deeper into the house and not towards the exit, I believed that she was likely still somewhere amongst the dark spaces of the first floor.

I had no interest in discovering if the wound had been fatal.

Watching not to slip on the flaking blanket of brown, as my feet plummeted down the stairs, I deserted the crime scene.

It was only after the door was firmly shut behind me, and the remnants of my breakfast disposed of in a professionally groomed array of rose bushes, that I noticed Doctor Henley, across the street, as he observed from the safety of his living room’s bay window.

He waved to me.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 100 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return, Part 1 of 3

29 Nov

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode One Hundred.

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 1 of 3
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method, and Other Stories”.

Think you might know what a deformed brother and sister are concocting a half-mile underground?

We assure you, you do not.

Find it on Amazon, or find links to special editions and more at http://oldenoughnovel.blogspot.com/

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we introduce a new character, Harm Carter, as he finds himself in an awkward position after having laid his hired help low with a blunt object.

 

Flash Pulp 100 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Preface

I write this recounting based on my own journals, and my memories of the times. I can not be sure that each quotation of dialogue is accurate, but I can at least promise that it is my intention to relate the truth to the best of my abilities.

If there are moments that seem shocking and unbelievable, I apologize, for they seemed just as shocking and unbelievable to myself as they happened.

HLC

The moment that I understood that I’d found myself in a desperate situation came as I dropped the wine bottle to the kitchen’s floor tiles, and it landed with a blunt thud instead of a sharp crack. The muted response was largely due to the volume of blood draining from Catarina.

I plucked the phone from its charging station and tried for a dial tone, but came up empty eared.

As I was fussing with the number pad, the blood pool was growing. Realizing my foot was suddenly warm and moist, I looked down to see my left sock wicking up the encroaching puddle. Seeing my handiwork, anxiety filled my legs and I fled the house, leaving the red trail of a single stained foot along the white hall carpet.

Without thinking, I re-entered my Ford Explorer, whose engine was still ticking away the heat of my recent journey. I sat in the driver seat, my hands at ten and two, but I did not reach for the keys. Instead I took a deep breath, and considered, for a brief moment, what had happened.

I’d awoken that morning in my mountain cabin six hours to the north. It was looking to be one of the last pleasant stretches of the season, and I’d had little time to visit since giving it the traditional spring rub down, so the Monday previous I’d shuttered my office for a week and left the world to fend for itself.

What a mistake.

The Murder PlagueThe vacation had been pleasant enough, mostly in that it had allowed me to indulge my prime hobby, photography. I’d taken reams of film while walking the woods, but I’d always maintained a policy of otherwise utilizing no technology more advanced than a cast iron stove while on retreat.

The lack of email or ringing cellphone had struck me as quite freeing, and I’d traveled home feeling a smug Luddism that prevented me from wanting to ruin the moment by engaging the radio.

I was surprised to see Catarina’s car in my driveway as I pulled in, but it wasn’t uncommon for her to arrive a day early. Years previous, while my wife, Kate, lay on her deathbed, she had told me: “Get a cook – when you remarry, I’d rather you do it on a full stomach.” Catarina had been the result of that command.

Although I’m man enough to be able to keep clean my own slovenly trail, I’ve never been able to manage even finger painting in the culinary arts, and Kate knew all too well my weakness for buttery victuals. Still, if I wasn’t entirely sure about dinner, I often preferred to give my dedicated chef those evenings off – it was an easy excuse to engage in a little drive-thru-consumption misbehaviour.

To make matters worse, once I’d welcomed myself into my own home, I discovered that the meal she’d obviously been working hours to make was not something I was likely to enjoy: pan roasted chicken breasts stuffed with smashed almonds, mascarpone and lemon, with a side of roasted sweet garlic and almond soup.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” she replied, her eyes on me as her hand maintained a steady stirring of the soup.

“I appreciate you coming in today,” I began. I hate to disappoint anyone, but I’d had a long drive, and I’d really become enthused by the idea of a quarter pound of greasy beef for dinner. Honestly, I was also mildly annoyed that the woman had once again forgotten that I have a long standing position that nuts are simply an alternative form of wood, suitable only for covering in chocolate or feeding to squirrels. “I’m really not feeling well after my trip – must have eaten a bad bit of trail mix, you understand. I’m sure I’ll be tip-top by the morn, so if you wouldn’t mind packaging all of this up, I’ll be happy to eat it as tomorrow’s lunch.”

It was my actual intention to simply throw it all out once she was gone, as I had done a half-dozen times previous when her meals came up short or involved some flavour she refused to remember my distaste for, but there was no reason to hurt her feelings over the matter.

To help ease the blow, I plucked a bottle of Pegasus Bay pinot noir from the rack and moved to retrieve two glasses.

I think she sensed the lie; to be fair, at the time I didn’t realize how much investment I should put into convincing her of the falsehood.

As I set the stems upon the counter, she turned in a blur, raising high the chef’s knife she’d used to slice the chicken.

The overhead grip was an amateur mistake: it gave me just enough time to panic and side-arm the bottle into her temple.

After a moment of coaxing her to rise, I understood there was no hope of her returning to the land of the living. That’s when I dropped the wine, tried the phone, then made my exit.

Out in the Explorer, I spent a long moment trying to understand what had just transpired. Realizing my cellphone was still inside the abattoir my home had become, I decided I ought to see if the Hernandez’s, my next door neighbours, would let me make a call.

First though, I must admit, I peeled off my dirty socks, rolled them into a red and white yin yang, and pulled on my hiking boots.

There is a feeling of embarrassment in expecting to have to report a death while barefoot.

 

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