Tag Archives: Blackhall

Flash Pulp 095 – Muck: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

17 Nov

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety-Five.

Tonight we present Muck: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Ella’s Words.

Find the poetess’ work here.

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 present a brief interlude in Thomas Blackhall’s river travels.

Flash Pulp 095 – Muck: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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

Blackhall and his companion, Marco the voyageur, had been paddling and portaging for fifteen days, and, while Thomas had enjoyed much of the Frenchman’s conversation, his patience for the corn whiskey jug that seemed perpetually on hand was growing thin.

The two had pulled the fat-bottomed canoe onto another in the series of muddy banks that demarcated their progress, and, at the emergence of his perennial annoyance, the frontiersman had offered to walk the brush that surrounded the little camp in search of meat that might be roasted.

He’d let himself range far while enjoying the familiar rustling of the wind through untouched forest, and he’d found a security in his surroundings that he’d missed afloat and fighting the fast moving river. Game was sparse, but he’d encountered a mass of huckleberries that had him regretting his lack of a larger container than his palms in which to transport them. It was as he was lost in this consideration, and as his hands pulled berries from shrub to mouth, that he noted a thick line of destruction running through the brush at the patch’s furthest end.

His first thought was that some great bear had trampled through in preparation for its hibernation, but a further consideration of the path left him with an uneasy feeling. It appeared as if some man or animal had moved through the area with little regard for what lay ahead of it: a pine which lay in its course had had its ankle-thick branches snapped at the base, and a great rut of dirt had been agitated in its wake.

Blackhall was swift in putting his Baker rifle into his grip, but it was his sabre, which he’d left at the fire’s edge, that he longed for. He made good time through the darkening woods, despite the fallen autumn leaves protesting loudly at each footfall.

Marco watched Thomas’ entrance into the camp with heavy eyelids, and welcomed the returned with a lift of his whiskey.

“I’ve some work ahead, and it might be dangerous,” said Blackhall, as he hefted his sword. “I’d like your help, but it seems you’ve done yourself under.”

The voyageur cursed the frontiersman, the bottle, the river, the campfire, and his bladder.

“I was drunker than this the night I rode a nag full tilt down the nine mile road, blindfolded.”

He staggered to his feet, his hand going to the buck knife he carried at his belt.

“Où?”

* * *

Thomas Blackhall“It seems ridiculous, but it’s the golem of Prague. It was formed of clay and animated to defend its people from the cruelties of their time – or at least, that’s my best guess, from my readings.” Blackhall now regretted having roused his companion, but there was little he could do. He continued his explanation. “They say it eventually became too aggressive, and was locked in the attic of a synagogue.”

The trail had been simple enough to follow, as the towering form made no effort to alter its course for the sake of ease.

“It just sat there quietly?”

“It is a difficult thing to always hold a loaded pistol in your hand, day in and day out, and not find some need to fire it,” Blackhall replied. “Mayhaps it originally found its way here on some errand, or, feeling the pull that brings all of the world’s phantasms to this final emptiness in their end days, it somehow stowed away. It is impossible to tell. Neither can we say how long it has wandered these rugged lands with little purpose. I would guess that it has been quite some time.”

The thing watched them as they talked, standing as near the river’s edge as it might without risking its never-fired feet. While seeming nearly impervious, it had not moved through the land unscathed, and gouts of its arms and legs had been ripped away by its ill considered path.

“I think the monster wishes to bring an end to itself,” said the voyageur, puffing zealously on one of Thomas’ hand-rolled cigarettes.

Again, Blackhall wished he’d left the man alone with his drink.

“It understands it to be a sin to suicide,” he replied.

Never pausing for thought, the Frenchman moved to the figure and pressed his hands hard upon its shoulders, sending it tumbling backwards into the water.

He’d stumbled back to his jug well before Blackhall had finished watching the remains break up and wash down stream.

 

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 091 – The Elg Herra, Part 4 of 6

8 Nov

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety-One.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Elg Herra: A Blackhall Tale, Part 4 of 6
(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

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(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by MT Starkey Short Stories.

Putting the “and” back into Blood and Guts.

To find them, click here.

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, Thomas and his companion, Marco, unexpectedly reach the end of their river journey.

Flash Pulp 091 – The Elg Herra, Part 4 of 6

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

Blackhall and the voyageur, Marco, were well west of the Athabasca when they made their final camp. Both men had settled into an hour long silence, comfortable and companionable, as their eyes turned to the stars, and it was under their own considerations that they fell to slumber. The journey had been favoured with a week’s worth of Summer warmth filling the late autumn days, and the travellers had agreed to rest under the open air to take advantage of the situation while they may.

Thomas awoke only in time to see two figures looming over Marco’s sleeping form – he’d drawn breath to let out a warning, but had been cut short by his own pair of captors. The seized mens’ hands were quickly bound, and they were left on their knees by the smoldering remnants of the fire as their supplies were rummaged through.

“Be quiet,” spoke the apparent leader, in certain English.

The rest of the discussion, however, was a roll of consonants that neither captive could decipher.

The intruders seemed to show some care in their investigation, until they came across a particular bundle of Blackhall’s. The searcher held high Ida’s silver blade, shouting excitedly for another named “Kol”. The conversation became hushed and sharp.

After a moment, the examinations ended abruptly, and the prisoners were roughly lifted to their feet to and prodded into the treeline.

Neither Marco nor Blackhall stood on height with their guards; the closest was the youngest, the nearly-blond boy who stood on the Frenchman’s right, and he was still half a head taller. Their bulky frames seemed incongruous for those who inhabited the area, and neither could Thomas make connection between the locale and their style of dress, as it was unlike any he’d seen in his journeys. The men wore woven shirts, but the rest of their attire was formed of leather; long coats, plucked from the trees as the group led their prisoners away from the camp, were worn over trim breeches cut with a wide hem at the leg.

Thomas BlackhallAs they marched, Thomas attempted to explain his possession of the dagger. He’d managed little more than “…regret to inform you that Princess Ida is no more,” before Kol told another, Hakon, to muzzle him with a length of rawhide, and to extend the same courtesy to Marco.

Twenty minutes attention to careful footing brought them into a second encampment.

Four tents, skins of some workmanship stretched taut by line and timber, stood at the corners of the clearing, and, at its center, a fire pit. Alongside the shelters, each tethered to a tree, stood four bull moose.

The beasts were adorned with saddles of a style which seemed closer, to Blackhall, to those worn by camels than those of horses. Ornate panels of leather hung from the seats, on which had been tooled scenes of battle victory, endless horizons, or, Thomas guessed, loved ones. The bull closest, which eyed the new arrivals with an impassive shake of his head, had had a panel damaged, apparently in combat.

As they reached the familiar surroundings, the cryptic discussion amongst the captors once again boiled over, and there was little Thomas could do but watch the match. Although he could make out no more than the emotions of the argument, he was at least able to deduce the names of the Moose Lords. Kol had a man named Hakon who seemed to hew closely to his own position, while the counter-point was provided by one named Asmund – who Thomas thought to have much the same brow and jaw as Ida – and his own quiet ally, Mord, the shortest of the giants.

English phrases began to creep into their speech, and Blackhall knew his scrutinies had not gone unnoticed. Soon the conversation had moved entirely to Thomas’ own tongue.

“Maybe it was in their mind that we all carry such finery as the princess’ blade – what if they have come to rob us?” suggested Hakon.

“Fine,” replied Kol. “To ensure we have met all possibilities of justice, we shall kill them twice.”

“Yes,” croaked Hakon, from behind a smile, “Once for bringing the hag upon us, and once for being thieves.”

“I have heard it said that the child-eater haunts the Prester’s farms as much as our own longhouses,” spoke Asmund.

“Little more than rumour – nothing would dare eat their ugly children,” Hakon replied.

“Asmund,” said Kol, now squatting beside the rising flame. “We were sent to split the flesh of the Prester’s people, and what I see before me is a thieving Prester assassin, likely paid to kill your sister and return this token to them as proof.”

It had taken time, but Blackhall had spent his efforts in dampening his rawhide, so as to find enough elasticity to expel the binding from his mouth. Hearing the passing of what might be his final opportunity to win his freedom, he made his gamble.

The gathered were startled when he spoke.

“Ah, so you were then the Princess’ brother? Ida spoke of your Uncle Myter, and his death on the river. If we are to die so far from home, I ask that you leave me here against these trees facing westward, so that I might face upon my missing wife, and so that, as your Uncle Myter with his birds, I might be some nourishment to the beasts of the woods who’ve so long maintained my own flesh.”

Asmund’s eyes grew wide.

“Kol, he speaks of my Uncle Myter; what knowledge would he have of such a drunk if not for the good graces of my sister? We owe it to ourselves and to the Earl to carry this man at least as far as the long houses.”

“We were not sent out as coddlers, we are meant to be at search for at least another dozen nights – you’d have us bring short our duty so as to extend the life of these lying perversions? They likely cut the tales-they-twist from your sister’s own tongue before her death at their hands.”

The heat in Asmund and Kol’s words seemed to have drawn them closer, and, with spittle on their lips, they shifted to the rough consonants of their language. It was a sharp exchange, and only a moment later Kol drew back a fist. His action was brought short by two words from Hakon.

A smile broke upon the aggressor’s face. He nodded.

“Fine then,” Asmund replied, once again returning to English, “a duel it is.”

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 090 – The Elg Herra, Part 3 of 6

5 Nov

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Elg Herra: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 6
(Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride

Keeping one hand on the pulse of America while the other makes off with its wallet.

Find it at http://bmj2k.wordpress.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, Blackhall finds himself surveying the scene of a death no easier to piece together than the shattered remains of the window from which it originated.

Flash Pulp 090 – The Elg Herra, Part 3 of 6

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

Blackhall was the third man in the attic – Commandant Hallson had preempted his arrival only because he’d had the advantage of it being his own home.

The upper-most room, where Ida and Aalbert Bijl had taken lodging, was steepled to follow the line of the roof, and uncomfortable to stand in at its edges. The floor was brimming with a collection of mismatched furniture that had obviously migrated from the Commandant’s private rooms as it became too worn for his own tastes, and, to Blackhall, the space felt too small to hold its appointments.

His head ached from lack of sleep and excess drink.

Somewhere at the periphery of his perception – he could not tell if it emanated from within the room, or from the ground below – came a ticking.

The window had been a single large piece of glass, abutted at its frame by a low seat, upon which Bijl was still reclined so as to look out from behind the carnage of the pane’s remnants. To Thomas’ eye, the remaining fragments about its perimeter appeared as if a collection of misshapen teeth.

“I knew something like this would happen,” Aalbert told the open air beyond, “it was her damnable sleep walking.”

“Excuse me,” said Blackhall, turning on the Commandant, “is there an especially loud clock somewhere in the home?”

“Only the grandfather standing in the front hall, I believe,” Hallson answered, his brow raised in question.

The frontiersman’s abrupt entry into the house had brought a tide of the curious behind him, and, as he focused his attentions down the stairwell, he could hear the commandant’s wife clucking and shushing those at the entrance.

Hallson, noting Thomas’ distraction, turned back to his impassive scrutiny of the widower, his considerations restrained to his own council.

“Somnambulism! Her wanderings have brought my beautiful princess to stumble into her own grave!” Aalbert lamented.

“Your tone falls flat, sir.” Blackhall replied, taking a seat in a well worn armchair and pinching the bridge of his nose in an effort to dispel the throbbing pounding that clouded his mind. The image of a pinwheel he’d had as a child floated up to him from the sleep-deprived depths of his imagination, the edge catching on its base in each revolution: click-click-click.

A heavy tread came from the flight of stairs, and for a moment all three turned to watch the entrance of the voyageur Thomas had encountered at the Pastor’s table. Marco held a kerchiefed bundle in a delicate grip, and all surmised it to be the likely reason the lady of the house had allowed him entrance.

“Bonsoir,” the new entrant said to the gathered. He seemed relieved to see Blackhall on hand, although he turned to speak with the Commandant. “No doubt, sir, you have caught wind of this man’s rantings throughout the length of his stay – his complaints regarding his wife’s nocturnal habits specifically. There may be some truth to it, I can not say, but I tell you this: while below I took a moment to inspect the glass which now wreathes the departed princess, and much of it is covered in prints, as if a confectionery window after the school day’s final bell.”

Peeling back its covering, the Frenchman held out a hooked shard to Hallson, who took it with careful fingers.

A gust blew through the gaping pane, and, to Thomas, carried with it a mental image of Ida, sprawled on the ground below, the bones of her neck pressed hard against her skin, her gaze unseeing, and yet her teeth chattering against the chill of the wind and the approaching grave.

The Commandant held the glass against the light of the single lamp which lit the room, revealing the smudged palm-marks along its surface. All gathered cast their eyes onto it, as if it were a Gypsy’s crystal which might clarify the night’s mysteries.

“She must have been at the window some time, and eventually pressed herself so hard upon the panel that it shattered,” said Hallson, rolling the shard gently as he held it nearly against his nose in inspection.

“There were few obstacles she could not conquer in her unconscious state,” replied Aalbert, “I once encountered her having scaled a writing desk and pawing at the wall behind, as if she might locate a portal to travel beyond it.”

The dance of the light as it played through the remnant only served to drive the spike of pain further into Thomas’ skull, each heartbeat now bringing on a pound which felt just shy of that of a woodsman’s axe.

As it retreated, his mind seemed to throw up every source of ticking he’d encountered as a youth – the click of his father’s pocket watch; the knock of a restless shoe upon the floor of his boyhood classroom during lessons; the tap of a branch against the window of his childhood quarters.

He stood suddenly.

Noting the silver dirk that the princess, Ida, had carried during her surprise visit to his borrowed chamber, Blackhall scooped it up from the small table upon which it had been placed with obvious care.

The rapid elevation had brought further injury to his trampled senses, and yet he forced himself to stagger towards Bijl, still seated at the ragged opening.

“Stop him!” the Commandant ordered, alarmed at the dagger in the man’s hand and the increasing resolve that filled out his strides.

Marco remained stationary.

“Allow me, sir,” Blackhall spoke over his shoulder, in response to Hallson’s alarm, “to present an alternate theory.”

Ignoring the now cowering figure of Aalbert, the frontiersman set his bare, muddy foot upon the cushions of the bench-seat, raising himself to the full height of the pane. He reached behind the drape which framed the fractured aperture and pulled away what, at first glance, appeared to be an empty sewing bobbin.

Thomas BlackhallStaring at the artifact, Thomas spent a moment chewing at his thumbnail, then stepped down to approach the Commandant. As he closed the distance, Hallson noted a glint hovering below the spool.

“A trick I’d long forgotten,” spoke Blackhall, “although common enough on a Yorkshire Mischief Night. Run the finest thread you might locate through a bobbin, then tie it off with a needle hanging at the end of the loop. The slightest draft will set the nearly invisible rig tapping for hours. In my school days we used just the same technique to drive our headmaster nearly mad.”

He was staring down Bijl as he spoke, the dagger in his free hand rising as the Dutchman tensed at his words. He continued.

“Ida spoke of hearing her father’s tapping in her dreams – it is my belief that this beast hoped his wife would follow the sound of his child’s game to her death, and yet, by the looks of the glass you’ve retrieved, she must have spent quite some time against the expanse before her fall. It seems likely that, in the end, it was his own hands which sent her into the night air, and that it was only the immediately pressing eyes of the foot patrol below which stopped him short of reaching up to remove the contraption.”

The widower eyed the door beyond the three men, then, briefly, the window. Finally, he began to weep.

“Yes, I see,” said the Commandant, placing the marred scrap upon the table from which Blackhall had retrieved the Princess’ blade.

“It is my intention to leave in the morning, for I will not sit well through this man’s trial, and it seems incumbent upon me, in her husband’s failure, to carry out the Princess’ final wishes.” He placed the dagger in a deep pocket of his greatcoat. “I ask that you will forgo a christian burial in this instance – my understanding of her people is that their custom might be to lay her body upon a soft bed, in a place of silence, under the blaze of the noon sun. I will not be on hand, however, as my duties compel me to depart post-haste.”

He did not reveal that he little relished the sting another observation of her body would bring him.

The voyageur, who had, until that point, held his tongue, nodded.

“Do you wish company?” he asked, “It was time I set paddle to river anyhow, and I would be more than happy to have another pair of arms to carry my canoe.”

It would be thirty-eight days before the travelers entered the presence of the Moose Lords – as their prisoner.

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.

Inspiration

5 Nov

There are a few touchstones I have for each character in Flash Pulp, some bit of audio or visual candy that helps get me in the proper mood – few of them, however, have quite the same connection as Blackhall and the soundtrack to the film Ravenous.

Flash Pulp 072 – The Affair Of Honour: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

24 Sep

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Seventy-Two.

Tonight, we present The Affair Of Honour: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the ranting of Captain Pigheart.

Rather than listen to our pale imitation, why not try a free sampling of the Captain’s work for yourself?

Buy the tales, as told by the Captain himself at CD Baby.

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 present a story of honour, risk, and single combat.

Flash Pulp 072 – The Affair Of Honour: A Blackhall Tale

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

At the age of ten, Thomas Blackhall was witness to his first duel. His understanding of the matter was minimal, but Theodore Ashton, a long time friend of his father’s, had asked the senior Blackhall to act as his second, and so it was that Thomas happened to overhear of the farmer’s field, not far from his own home, that was to be the site of resolution.

Creeping through the tall summer grasses, he came to the edge of a clearing in which stood four men. His father and Theodore Ashton were immediately recognizable, but he had no knowledge of their opposition. The man who would be fired against was young and lean, and stood a good six inches taller than Ashton. It seemed to Thomas’ youthful eye that this would give his father’s friend an advantage in aim.

The stranger’s second was a rotund gaffer, the face of which had grown red with anxiety and sun, who fussed ceaselessly until told to stop by the man demanding satisfaction.

The wind was at the boy’s back, and he could not hear the words exchanged between the gathered – the marking of distance, and preparation of pistols, however, was clear enough.

There was a moment when all was hushed, then came the shooting – a crack and flare from Ashton’s weapon, and, on its heels, the echo of the challenger’s.

For a moment the youth thought the encounter at an end. He was sure Ashton’s ball had flown true, and that the stranger was done in, but after a moment the tall man smiled and insisted on sending forward his second to converse with Thomas’ father.

The large man was animated in his commentary, and the elder Blackhall seemed displeased as he returned to speak with his friend.

The pistols were once again loaded.

The second volley seemed to come with less anticipation. The order of fire was again repeated, although the challenger seemed to pause this time, taking closer aim before discharging.

Seeing Ashton tumble sideways to the ground, and the still standing form of the tall man, young Blackhall moved from his hiding spot, his legs pounding homeward.

Once he’d wiped clean his tears and ventured to the supper table, he learned that his father’s companion had not perished, but instead was simply wounded. It would be a long year before the duelist might regain the use of his arm, but Thomas was happy to know the man had not been slain.

* * *

The second duel to which Thomas was privy took place many years later, as he ventured through the western districts of Upper Canada.

At this event, he was far from the sole spectator. The demand had been well heeded by all who’d been astride the General Brock’s hard wooden stools, and no few of the grogs-men had turned out to see Paul Melnor, a half-pay officer with a well known reputation for his embittered temper, challenged by a vagabond, who the locals referred to only as Ludwig.

Blackhall had not been on hand for the issuance, but, having awoken early to the Brock’s morning gossip, he’d found himself making his way, on empty belly, to the designated field.

The air was chill, and the morning dew soaked the feet of all who’d assembled.

Thomas knew none of the expectant faces personally, although he had some passing acquaintance with the half-pay officer from his short time at the Brock, but it was none of the residents who caught his eye. Melnor’s challenger was a lean man, of some half-remembered familiarity, and the frontiersman set himself to taking a closer look.

He’d grizzled since Blackhall had first seen him, but his inspection left little doubt that it was the same duelist who’d done injury to his father’s friend many years previous.

Despite his increased age, Ludwig seemed limber and full of vigour. Upon the hour of their engagement, his face broke into a smile.

Thomas BlackhallThe first shot was Melnor’s, and well placed. Blackhall clearly saw the spreading crimson upon the tall man’s chest, and Thomas was sure it was the aging stranger’s turn to topple. After a moment, however, Ludwig seemed to collect himself, despite the neat hole in his waistcoat.

Raising his pistol, the challenger took careful aim.

The next day the local newsman would not report it as the result of a duel, but as that of an execution; there was little else to call Ludwig’s deliberation in the murder of his foe. The crowd did little but watch as he soon after sauntered to the edge of the throng, accepted a billfold which represented the winnings of the contested card game, and disappeared into the tree line.

Despite their conjecture that the man would soon be seen at the home of the local physician, the people of the town would not look upon Ludwig’s face again.

* * *

Blackhall had prepared himself for his final encounter with the lean man.

He’d long since moved further westward, well passed the settled reaches of the King’s land, into the primeval forest dotted only by the occasional farmstead or palisade of the People of the Longhouse.

It was a year since he’d observed the duel between Melnor and Ludwig, and much had happened in the interim – Thomas had come into the area following a trail of butchery, both of the aboriginals and the European farmers and trappers who’d braved the frontier. The murders had been cruel, and the sites of their perpetration were soaked with scarlet.

He came upon the third set of duelists under the clean sun of midday, in a small meadow. Ludwig had appeared without mount, but his opponent had tied off a well-packed mule along the edge of the clearing. This newest foe seemed to have little stomach for the challenge; Thomas could see the tremors in his hand even at his distance, and the man’s face seemed a mix of sorrow and concern.

Blackhall knew the supposed act of honour to be little more than robbery.

Both men had counted their distance and readied their weapons; shot would soon fill the air.

Thomas intercepted the process with a bellow.

Thinking his opposition to have fired early, the shaken man fainted, his weapon falling, unfired, from his grasp.

Ludwig turned to meet the interloper.

“I’ve been following you for some time now,” Blackhall stated flatly.

“Have you?” Ludwig responded, his face twisting into the same smile he’d worn on the day of Paul Melnor’s murder.

“I’ve come to stand as this man’s second.” Thomas said, carefully pulling the man’s limp body to a position of rest under the shade of a maple tree.

“Will you utilize his pistol?” Ludwig questioned.

“I’d rather my rifle, despite the disadvantages in speed that it presents,” Blackhall responded.

“I leave the choice to you.”

The two men faced each other then, and, as a single raven broke from the trees to take flight, both raised their weapons as if to fire. Ludwig’s arm far out-sped Thomas’, but it was Blackhall who fired first.

He’d been sure that the tall stranger would await the opportunity of a careful response; his greatest fear had been that the silver ball he’d cast would shatter under the force of firing, but, as Ludwig’s body fell to the earth, it twisted briefly into a form that was both man and wolf, proving his concerns unfounded.

It was tiring work, but Blackhall had all but finished digging the lycanthrope’s grave even before the lean corpse’s penultimate challenger had fully awoken from his swoon.

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 069 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

18 Sep

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Sixty-Nine.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Relic Radio family of podcasts.

Jim, host of the Relic Radio podcasts, is a man of mystery, suspense, thrills, chills and even science fiction.

Hear his dulcet tones, as well as hours of fantastic old time radio content at RelicRadio.com, or search for it via iTunes.

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.

In this final chapter of our current serialization, Blackhall calls upon John Koyle, the ferryman, to discuss his recent travels.

Flash Pulp 069 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 3 of 3

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

As night once again began to fall, the chill water held little hospitality. Even then, Blackhall felt that he could only wait and hope the carcajou moved along of its own accord. He’d made his way, with careful precision, as near to shore as he dare – and yet he could still hear the animal feeding, and he had no interest in overusing his well stretched good fortune.

The glutton had spent the long hours of daylight working at picking clean the barricade of the dead. As Thomas attempted to remain deathly silent, the thing would balance along the fallen timber, stopping once it was ready to pull one of the ferryman’s bobbing victims from the hooks of the jagged tree limbs. It would then drag the intended meal to shore and begin its grizzly consumption. The process struck the nearly drowned man as being carried out as tidily as a scullery maid might purchase a packet of cow flesh at the butchers.

Although the thing was but the size of a large dog, the scraps of half-eaten attire that littered the animal’s chosen dining hall spoke to its fixedness of appetite.

As it ate, the frigid water ran endlessly over Blackhall, drawing the heat away until his kidneys ached at the flow which rocked him against the tree frames. His hands had long numbed, and were now little more than frozen talons. As he felt the weight of the scavenger once again settle onto its feeding path, he nearly wept.

Even over the burble, he could hear it snuffling at the the water’s edge, inspecting for further meat.

He briefly considered simply letting go – given his exhausted state, a sure death, but certainly better than being discovered by the approaching carrion eater. He’d once seen such a beast, smaller still than the one with which he was currently engaged, kill a bull moose that had become ensnared in deep snow. As the bull bellowed his dismay, the claws of the hunter had quickly carried out bloody work upon the blanket of white.

Mairi’s voice came to him then, from a place deep in his ear, where the cold could not reach. It spoke to him the words of her letter, which still lay sealed in the container that rhythmically tapped his chest in the draft and draw of the perpetual deluge.

Thomas –

If you need me, I shall come crashing as if the ocean upon the shore; I shall come running as if a river rushing from the great water; I shall come thundering as if a storm, laying low the land with flood and thunder and fire.

Always,
Mairi

A promise made on her part, and a standard to meet on his.

He felt the beast close now, but his patience was at an end. If he was meant to die, he knew it was meant to be on his feet, walking the long path to his dead wife.

The weight of his frozen body, as he pulled himself onto the gnarled pine, brought forth a burly grunt from his frost-burnt lungs. He’d not realized the proximity of the animal, and for the briefest of moments both stood still at their sudden encounter.

His foot moved with an alacrity that he could not account for, and that the glutton had obviously little suspected. His furious boot, powered by the expenditure of his frustration, sent the wolverine flying into the water, as if no more than a house dog at the brute-end of its master’s wrath.

Thomas BlackhallIt was not the animal that lay at the heart of his anger, however, and so began Blackhall’s return along the river’s edge, during which he could only be thankful that his course was so clearly marked by the banks of the rushing water. Each step brought another measure of warmth, but it was nought in comparison to the heat of the rage that built in his breast.

There’d been little opportunity to think as he’d clutched the deadfall, but the long path to his point of origin left much time to ruminate; on the near nature of his survival; on the treacherous and petty nature of the murderous thief; on the near end of his search for Mairi – and thus her eternal loss.

As he finally broke into the clearing of Koyle’s homestead, his hands shook and his jaw worked at a slow grinding of its own accord.

His legs picked up speed as they carried him around the corner of the residence, but he was brought to a halt by the sight of the man, in his boat, nearly half way to the far bank. It was impossible to know if he’d simply gone for a pleasure journey, or if another passenger had been consigned to float downstream, but the ferryman rode alone.

“Mayhaps it is my turn to shorten the journey.” Blackhall said, pushing open the door to the house. Quickly locating two oil lamps, he lit each from the morning fire’s coals and carried both back into the creeping sunlight.

He did not look to measure his transgressor’s progress as he exited and approached the first of the barns. Throwing wide the doors he made quick work of the pens that held the cows, and the catching fire amongst the straw brought further incentive to their evacuation.

He was not so expedient in the second barn.

Where he’d expected further live stock, instead he encountered something he could only consider a site of ritual. The cavernous walls of the outbuilding were filled with the stolen clothing of the dead, pinned, as if bugs, into fleshless tableaus of civilization. On his right the cocked arms of an empty dress seemed to pour and offer tea to a vacant suit. The pair appeared as if kneeling upon a blanket, on which also rested the swaddling of an unseen child.

With closer inspection, Thomas identified the scene as cleverly hung with nails. There was little space left for further work, even the hayloft ladder was adorned as if a small child were attempting the climb.

Ripping down the mocking imitation of life, he made his way to the upper area. The loft itself was also full, but with the husks of emptied luggage, and items likely as yet unsorted.

It was his hat that he first identifed: placing the broad brim upon his head, he was thankful that Koyle’s avarice must have lead the ferryman to pluck it from the water. His satchel and Baker rifle were also amongst the discards, but a search by the light of the remaining hurricane lamp did little towards locating his sabre. It was only once he’d descended the ladder and made further inspection of the displayed scenes that he located his weapon.

The knicked blade rest upon two long spikes, the surrounding representation made to look as if the shell of a royal were knighting the shell of a peasant.

Thomas could take no more. Lifting the hilt with his free hand, he cast the remaining lantern against the far wall. Three figures, formed to mimic men covering mouth, eyes and ears, quickly caught flame. In moments the fire had engulfed many of Koyle’s impersonations.

Kicking loose a slat from the ladder, Blackhall wrapped the end in a still unsinged undershirt, and set it to the heat.

He did not care to leave a job half finished, and he had mind to return once again to the main-house.

His travels were cut short by the barn-owner’s appearance at the door, the billowing black having drawn him back. The dismay on the ferryman’s face was drawn sharp by the visage of the frontiersman approaching from amongst the smoke of his works, a sabre in one hand and a flaming torch in the other.

He’d given his intended speech much consideration as he’d approached, and yet, at the sight of Koyle, Blackhall’s tongue was laid heavy by the weight of his anger.

“How many wives? How many husbands?” was all he could manage.

Thomas did not match Koyle’s pace as the man sprinted back into the yard, but he moved steadily on, following him to the river’s edge. The boatman set his craft upon the water in a single smooth motion, but his rowing had made little distance as Blackhall took the shore, and it was a short throw to deposit the smoldering slat upon the floor of the launch.

The oarsman had no choice but to carry the load, as his need for haste was made clear by the unslinging of Thomas’ rifle. Before he’d covered a quarter of the distance, a blaze danced along the stern.

At the halfway point, Blackhall took steady aim and shattered an oar as it plunged against the water.

Koyle began to curse his former victim extravagantly, although few of his words actually reached the Rideau’s eastern bank. Thomas replied by applying his Baker rifle to drilling two sharp holes at the boat’s bobbing tide-mark.

With a final shout, the ferryman lept from his sinking pyre.

The man’s ragged form slipping into Ophelia’s rapids was the last any but the glutton would see of him.

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 068 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

15 Sep

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Sixty-Eight.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Relic Radio family of podcasts.

Horror, suspense, laughs; Relic Radio has hundreds of hours of quality entertainment, and you don’t even need to construct or align a crystal set.

Find it at RelicRadio.com, or search for it via iTunes.

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.

In the second chapter of our current serialization, we obtain a glimpse of a younger Thomas, even as our hero is carried further off-course by the hands of fate, and John Koyle.

Flash Pulp 068 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 3

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

Other than what he carried with him, rituals, promises and habits were all that Thomas Blackhall had to guide him through the primeval forest.

Even as he was pitched through the furious water, a combination of the three were again what saved him.

Years earlier, well before his journey to recover Mairi, or his encounter with the ferryman, he’d stood on a small hillock outside the city of Parma, a dead boar at his feet. As he’d shouldered his spent rifle, he’d thought himself the saviour of a frail woman of no less than eighty, and, given the tusks and speed of the rushing beast, he’d expected a look of thanks, or even fear, upon his approach – instead he’d seen naught but glee.

His understanding of the local form of Latin had been poor, and the woman’s vernacular was rapid fire. She seemed to have questions, but he could only shrug. After a moment she’d raised her shoulders in exchange, then begun to fold back a thick woolen sleeve.

Working free her forearm, she’d plunged it deep into the dead beast’s throat; with a sharp tug, and a moist pop, an ornate woven sack had come spilling from between its jaws.

Despite his earlier considerations, it was Blackhall who stood flummoxed. The woman had wasted no time in rummaging through the sack, a steady stream of indecipherable commentary pouring from her lips as she inventoried with nimble fingers. Turning on Blackhall, she’d pulled free a roughly hewn rawhide necklace from amongst her spoils, a milky stone dangled from its loop.

She’d thrust it at him.

“No worries, I’m glad to have been of assistance,” he’d replied, sure she understood none of it.

Shaking her head at his ignorance, she’d dropped the stone into her mouth, then begun inhaling and exhaling dramatically while miming as if swimming.

The show was enough that he’d accepted the token on her second offering. Having settled accounts, she had turned on the boar, delivering a swift kick to the corpse’s belly, then galloped down the slope at a speed he’d known he could only hope to match with the most agile of horseflesh.

It was the next day, after he’d spent the morning exploring the bed of a nearby stream with the stone lodged firmly in his sealed mouth, that he’d begun to understand the extent of the gift he’d received.

In time he grew used to using the artifact to expedite his fishing, and it had long become habit to grasp for the stone at the point of any submergence.

Still, as he rushed through Ophelia’s rapids, he would have had little chance to reach for his token if it had not been for the water tight container in the breast pocket of his great coat; the container in which the yellowing final letter from his wife rested alongside his sheaf of smoking papers.

Thomas BlackhallIn his half-conscious state, the bobbing package, plucked by the current, felt as if the fingers of Mairi herself, attempting to snatch him from an unwelcome dream. The tug pulled him from the deepest black, although his body had little left to give as he struggled to place the milky stone between his jaws. The rock in place, he swallowed around it, clearing his mouth of water in spite of the belly-full he’d already involuntarily drank.

Panic was the enemy then – he knew enough to save his strength for such a time as he might require it, but, even with his breath recovered, his muscles longed to fight the current; to kick free to the shore. By force of will he waited, patient against the tumbling darkness of the encompassing water.

His perseverance was rewarded.

Without warning he found himself ensnared in a net of fallen dead pines. His position was awkward – he was well below the surface – and yet he was glad to have solidity onto which to grasp. With only a brief pause, he began to pick a careful route amongst the jagged ends, climbing the wavering branches.

As he neared the surface, his hand encountered another surprise: where he had expected a thick protrusion of pine, he came away instead with a pliant human arm. He broke the surface, even as he had hold of the aberration with his free hand, and was taken aback to see there was naught attached to the appendage.

He cast it into the stream.

The flow immediately carried it once again into the waterlogged barricade.

Taking a moment to breath naturally, his gaze moved over the length of the obstruction which had halted his progress. His eyes encountered many patches of coloured cloth caught in the wooden spines.

Turning towards shore, he found himself facing the rotting visage of a woman. Maggots had taken root amongst her cheeks, writhing nubs indicating the progress of their consumption.

It was the low growling beyond, however, which left him longing for the Baker rifle he’d left in the ferryman’s indelicate care.

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 067 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

14 Sep

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Sixty-Seven.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Relic Radio family of podcasts.

Did you know that genius auteur, and occasional loud mouth, Orson Welles, was responsible for hundreds of hours of audio content that pretentious hipsters never cite as an influence in their own media creation? The man was huge in radio before he was huge in general, and every week Relic Radio brings you a sample of his acting, producing, or opinions, via Orson Welles: On The Air.

Find it at RelicRadio.com, or search for it via iTunes.

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 present the first in a three part serialization following student of the occult, and master frontiersman, Thomas Blackhall. In this opening chapter we find Thomas once again moving rapidly downstream, in search of his Mairi.

Flash Pulp 067 – Koyle’s Ferry: A Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 3

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

The road west was not an easy one, craven man and beast roamed freely where the trees were at their deepest, and many souls were lost amongst the shadows before the soil was finally settled.

Thomas Blackhall had had little to do with the roadway until he came up against the Rideau, a thick band of rapid water cutting the land north to south. He’d spent a day locating a suitable crossing, and dusk was falling as he came upon the stone lodging of John Koyle.

Despite the late hour, and the dense mosquitoes, Thomas found the man seated at the corner of his porch, idly gazing down the path that lead from the east and broke suddenly at the river’s edge. When Koyle finally caught sight of the great-coated man, marching from the southern trees, he started.

“Hallo there, friend,” the ferry-master said, rising from his chair.

“- and a good evening to you, sir,” Blackhall replied. His satchel and rifle lay heavy at his shoulder, and his sabre had taken on the weight of a rock club not long after noon. Still, Thomas eyed the dipping sun and rising moon, judging the distance across the river against the size of the boat house that abutted the shore.

“Seems a might late for a crossing this eve,” Koyle noted with a conversational air.

“Would I be correct in guessing that you offer up a spare bed or three in yonder handsome residence, should it be the case that travelers arrive, but are not yet ready to endeavour onwards towards the next leg of the King’s cart path?” The homestead was well tended despite its distance from civilization, and Thomas made out a plaintiff mooing from one of the two barns which lay beyond.

“Indeed you would be, sir, at only a half dollar an evening,” replied Koyle, smiling.

Again Thomas turned to face the last of the daylight.

The weight of his baggage was heavy, but it was the small water tight container in his breast pocket that carried heaviest in his considerations.

“I have enough bacon inside to do five men under, and eggs from the morning, laid by my own hens round back,” Koyle said, “and only a pittance more to your bill.”

The final slip of sun drained away as he spoke, and the combined effect brought Thomas to a decision. He let one of his satchel’s straps loll from his shoulder.

“Come then, I’ll gladly pay you for bed and feast, but I’d rather be away as early tomorrow as is possible, so spare not the bacon this evening.”

“That’s how I always figure it, sir,” Koyle replied, holding the door wide to allow his guest entry.

* * *

Although he had seen no other boarder, nor noted wife, mistress or child about the house, nocturnal whispers tickled at Blackhall’s sleep throughout the dark hours. Even in his best efforts, with ear to wall and all otherwise silent, he was unable to make out more than a murmur, nor gather the context of the words, and the lack of understanding left him sleepless despite his fatigue and the well stuffed bed.

He met the dawn gruffly, and was eager to be away from any house that knew so little silence.

Thomas BlackhallAs he stepped from his room, he was greeted by Koyle, already seated at the thick ash table upon which they’d supped.

Blackhall had not heard the man rise.

“G’mornin’ to ye,’ the man offered, his chipper tone a minor offense to Thomas’ half-slumbering ear.

Rather than begin to list his reasons for believing otherwise, Blackhall lifted his satchel to his shoulder and nodded towards the door.

Mist still swirled above the dew, and as the two made their way to the river’s edge, a musk caught in the wind, leaving Thomas glad he had yet to fill his belly.

“If you’ll have a seat sir, I’ll have you right across,” said Koyle, taking up the line that left the small boat affixed.

It was a long row, over fast water, but as they moved to the center of the river the breaking sun cast light upon a pristine panorama.

“You’ll note the stone outcrop up yonder,” the ferry-man offered to the silence, his tone and words those of a practiced man making a well repeated trip. “The natives refer to it as the Devil’s nose, likely for its sharp condition.”

Some of Blackhall’s misgivings had fallen away with the shore, and he’d taken a pinch of Virginian tobacco into one of the fine Spanish papers he carried always. Closing away his supplies, he found a match amongst his satchel, which he had set, with his sabre, at his feet.

“- and there,” the man with the oar continued, “you’ll note Ophelia’s rapids, named I suppose for the madness required for a death-seeker to risk their turbulence. At sitting level there is an illusion that the rapids run flat, but if you were to stand, you’d note that there is in fact a ten foot fall upon the farthest side.”

Thomas stood, to humour the man, and Koyle joined him, despite his familiarity with the crossing.

Blackhall leaned forward.

“I see no drop.” The frontiersman said.

Once again the ferry-man had moved without noise.

As the oar struck Thomas’ skull, there was a flash of brilliance behind his eyes – then all was wet and darkness.

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.

Blackhall

20 Mar

Blackhall PreviewMy lovely illustrator has posted a preview picture from one of the projects I’ve cajoled her into. Hopefully the experiment will be going public at the end of next week.