Tag Archives: flash fiction

Flash Pulp 118 – Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

17 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighteen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride – it’s sort of like Seinfeld, but angrier.

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 we delve into the case of the tragic loss of SparkleFairy, as uncovered by a legion of volunteers and obsessive geeks.

 

Flash Pulp 118 – Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Fourteen year old Harris Baker was losing patience with his mother.

“Look, it’ll take, like, twenty minutes or something.”

The sight of her son with something as low tech as a shovel in his hand had set the woman on edge, and she’d refused the request for a ride outright.

“I’m not interested in helping you with your silly Internet games,” she replied.

“This isn’t a game: SparkleFairy is a missing person’s case, and we’ve been months doing the work on this. Me and, like, fifty other people have spent hundreds of hours -”

“If there are so many of your friends involved, one of them can go.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Mom. I’m the closest. I need to be the one that goes.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ll level with you – you can give me this ride, or you can expect an afternoon running through the classic repertoire of the statesman of industrial music, Trent Reznor.”

“How dare you threaten me, young man?”

“I’m not, Mom, I’m letting you down gently. A threat would involve me accessing the online storage in which I backed up last summer’s vacation pictures.”

“Not the summy of tummy.”

“Yes, Mom, the summy of tummy, all over Facebook.”

He attempted another run at an explanation as they drove.

“Well, remember how the NSA under the Bush administration was tapping the entire Internet?”

“No.”

Harris winced.

“Well, it was. AT&T stored a copy of everything that crossed over their pipes – and then they accidentally opened access to their archives for 10 months. It was basically an open secret, and although I don’t think any one person has a complete copy, there are three major repositories currently in existence that, as a whole, contain everything that went up or down the tubes for six years.”

“Huh.”

Science Fiction“So we dig through it. A few months ago, a guy named Macedonicus put together a software suite that links up chat accounts, email addresses, and anything else he can figure the protocols for, with known cold case files outstanding with law enforcement. He threw the front end on the web, under the banner of The Collective Detective, and, a few high-profile links later, he found he had a whole volunteer workforce.”

“Is that you?”

“I’m one of many – I’m doing a little better than the average noob though. I’m an editor; one of the council’s trusted worker bees, not just some flaky contributor.”

“Council?”

“Yeah, suits mostly. The project is too big now, so someone has to handle the business end – and the legal stuff.”

“Should I be concerned that you’re up to something illegal?”

“Heck no, I’m here to fight crime,” Harris replied.

He tightened his grip on the shovel.

* * *

The break had come when another of the editors – an OCD-wielding nerd named MitchSlap, who Harris considered a candidate for Asperger’s Syndrome – had found an alternate email account on one of SpakleFairy’s registrations for a forum she’d used to talk with friends while in the school library. Tracking back to the new inbox, they’d found a message from someone that hadn’t appeared anywhere else in their search.

The address had provided an IP number, and six days of obsessive digging through that destination’s traffic had lead the crew to an anonymous comment, buried under 10,431 replies to a CNN article regarding the missing girl. It said simply, “She’s under the oak tree on the west side of the Franklin train depot.”

At the time, the response had either been ignored as the raving of a troll, or simply gone unseen in the sheer volume of chatter. Whatever the case, none of the other users could have known about the cheap pot the same individual had offered to sell the missing girl in the hidden mailing.

Once The Collective had a lock on the source of his connection, however, his life was an open book that read like the work of a man who loved high powered rifles, blamed delinquents for the world’s woes, and refused to stay on his meds.

Those involved in the investigation had since wasted hours staring at his house via street view out of morbid curiosity, but they couldn’t move forward – not without proof. It had come down to Harris to find that proof, at the abandoned station, itself buried under deep layers of graffiti paint.

He’d assured his mother that he was violating no laws in trespassing, but, since leaving her on the open pavement and jumping the short fence, he was beginning to have doubts. He’d spent a long while inspecting the location via google maps, but now he was there, and it was cold.

Following his phone’s GPS to the spot the online maps indicated was likely SparkleFairy’s resting place, he located the tree, just as he’d seen it in the satellite view, and just where the original damning comment had said it would be. There was a decent sized rock nearby, so he set his phone down, with the camera set up to stream video of his work, and began digging.

He hadn’t expected how hard it would be, or how much muscle it would take. The chat that accompanied the feed began to fill – long standing members were dragging in people who’d never even heard of The Collective Detective, and word spread like brush fire through the real time social networks. The room was soon at its maximum capacity, and those bloggers who`d managed access took to writing up events as they happened.

After thirty minutes, Mrs. Baker began to lean on the horn.

With an embarrassed glance at the camera, Harris held up a finger and walked out of frame. The gathered observers broke into a chaos of mockery, uncertainty, and speculation. A moment passed, however, and the boy re-appeared, now redoubling his efforts.

He thought he’d found her at the two foot mark – but wasn’t sure.

Picking the phone up, he focused the camera on the dirty shape, and his thumbs became a blur of communication.

“What is this?” he asked. “I don’t want to call the police and discover it’s a moose bone or something.”

Hundreds of Wikipedia windows opened; specialists reached for thick tomes they hadn’t referenced since their school days; and Encyclopedia Britannica found itself with a sudden spike in user registrations.

Mrs. Baker’s shadow drifted into frame, and Harris turned to his Mom’s approach. He pointed to the bone.

She returned to her vehicle without comment.

“It’s a human humerus bone,” typed fifteen people at once.

Somehow, Harris’ brain had difficulty absorbing the information. Seconds ago SparkleFairy had been an abstract data-point to chase, but now the indictment had come down: she was human.

The loneliness of the place, and the terrible thing that had happened there, hit him hard in the stomach – but he took some comfort in knowing that, although a single person had seen her laid in the ground, a thousand pairs of eyes had witnessed her unearthing.

For the first time in his life, Harris dialed 911.

 

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 111 – Marked, Part 1 of 1

27 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eleven.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Marked, Part 1 of 1
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the the new Nutty Bites Podcast

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 tale of priorities, misunderstandings, and apocalypse.

 

Flash Pulp 111 – Marked, Part 1 of 1

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

 

When Emmett Mender entered the world, his grandmother, on his father’s side, was the only one in the waiting room to raise an eyebrow at the oddly shaped birthmark on the back of his right hand. Carolyn, Emmett’s mother, had suffered a long and difficult pregnancy, and so it was to both parents that the blemish seemed nothing when measured against the joy of a successful delivery.

Still, as proud father Michael paraded the freshly scrubbed newborn through the room, there had been that gray and bushy eyebrow, askew.

Emmett’s childhood brought on the occasional misadventure: he broke an arm at ten, while climbing a neighbours apple tree to pilfer some of their harvest, and he’d once been caught with an unpaid-for chocolate bar in his sweater’s front pocket while departing a 7-Eleven. Otherwise, his youth was quiet, and the pleased parents found him an affectionate boy.

Despite the happy times, Michael began to notice an increasing change in his own Mother. She’d always been a sweet woman, but Grandmother Mender’s tongue had recently become sharp, and most especially in the presence of her grandchild. She made no secret that she considered his chocolate theft a life-long stain for him to prove against. Her church attendance tripled in fervor as well, although she seemed to have little patience for the mercy that was preached there.

Two weeks after his fourteenth birthday, Emmett refused to accompany his parents to their weekly Sunday dinner at his grandparents, stating that he had no interest in spending more time re-listening to the litany of complaints that always seemed to flow from his grandmother’s mouth as soon as he breached the door.

It was only three days later that Grandma Mender collapsed, convulsing; a day after that she was diagnosed as having a terminal cancer invading her nervous system.

Emmett attempted to visit while she was in the hospital, but he did not find any closure in the trips, as the old woman was deeply unconscious throughout. He decided instead to try reconciliation with his grandfather.

“I know things haven’t always been great, but -” was as far as he’d gotten before the old man had laid his leathery palm heavily across the boy’s face.

“This is your fault,” as well as the slap, was the only reply he would get.

No one could have known it at the time, but Grandfather Mender’s breakdown had begun the moment he’d watched his wife tumble sideways to the floor. She’d been interrupted mid-sentence, and the complaint she’d been voicing regarding her hooligan grandson would never be completed.

The disease worked quickly, and within a month the family was gathered about her grave, weeping and mourning – all but Emmett, who’d been told by his father that it might be best if he were to remain home.

Kar'WickWhile Carolyn and Michael often attempted to play-down his grandfather’s implications, the burden was a heavy one for the teenager to carry, and he began to ease his load with the assistance of the varied spirits he found in his parent’s liquor cabinet.

As soon as the casket was out of sight, Grandfather Mender had taken up his wife’s pious scheduling. He spent most waking hours in the Lord’s house, tending the fires he would then unleash at the continued Sunday meals. Not a week went by in which he did not berate son and daughter-in-law regarding the significance of the mark that adorned Emmett’s hand.

It was Michael’s encouragement that brought about the final meeting; he had no way of knowing how badly his father’s psyche had shattered. To work up his courage Emmett had secretly spent the morning sipping at a flask of vodka, and, by the time he arrived at his grandfather’s table, his tongue had worked itself into belligerence.

The old man was quick in accusing him of being a work of Lucifer, and the boy’s expletive-laden reply did little to prove otherwise.

“Lord, aid me!” the old man shouted, leaping across the serving dishes with his steak knife in hand.

He would never fully clear the over-cooked roast, however. The table began to buck under him, and the beams of his aging home groaned at the birthing strain of the forgotten deity, Kar’Wick. In the end, all would know the same fate, in the shadow of the Spider-God’s gnarled carapace.

 

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 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

22 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and ten.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Deliberation, Part 1 of 1
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the the new Nutty Bites Podcast

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 tale of futuristic justice.

 

Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

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

 

“Well, they all look like over-sized mars rovers, and they all roll around killing cows – that’s about it, mostly.”

The prosecutor smirked at the rough-handed man currently on the stand.

“A country understatement if I’ve ever heard one. You’re familiar with the farm’s operations? With the unit itself?”

“I’ve been working on the Lancaster’s spread for fifteen years, although only with, uh the unit, for the last four.”

“- and you knew Gregor Petrov personally?”

“Yeah, I knew him. We worked together five days a week for seven years.”

“What about the day he died?”

“I wasn’t actually on-shift when it happened, but the only surprise was that the robot had done it – I figured it would have been one of the other guys.”

“You were the sole maintenance man for the farm?”

“Well, no, I mean, I’m definitely the guy who does the hard stuff, but most folks on a farm know how to twist wires and pour gas.”

“Fine, but for something as complex as a portable abatoir…?”

“Yeah, sure, I was probably the only one who knew enough to plug a laptop in and poke at the interface, and I did a lot of the mechanical maintenance, but that doesn’t mean I have clue one about his electronics. I’m sure you know how to set your microwave’s clock and can replace the spinning platter if it cracks, but that doesn’t mean you can build one from scratch or even fix it if someone dumps a mug of coffee in the back. We have seven of the units, and Grumpy is the only one I’ve ever seen acting weird.”

The lawyer took a sip of her water, then re-approached the witness box.

“Do you think what happened was a mechanical or software failure?”

“No.”

“Do you think this robot was programmed to kill?”

The cowhand licked his lips.

“Not especially. People might not have liked Gregor, and I could possibly see someone wanting to do him in, but changing Grumpy that much would be way out of my league, and I know I’m well ahead of the rest of the pack back at the ranch.”

“Do you think the company that built it might be culpable?”

“Well – not exactly. I don’t know how their learning software works, but I have to wonder.”

* * *

The technician which now occupied the hot-seat pulled at his tie, considering his answer.

Science Fiction“Before this incident we’d only had one human fatality. The units use something we call the adaptive education matrix to learn to make smarter decisions, but only in areas related to what they do. They learn to recognize who they need to be partnered with, and some of their human companions preferences – it learns the map of the area it operates in… but certainly nothing that we might think of as emotions. It’s mostly just a computer.”

“Doesn’t it have something of a sense of humour as a sort of emotional assistance to the human it’s working with in the slaughter house? My understanding is that it picks up jokes from the people it works with and passes them on?”

The tech shifted in his seat before replying.

“Sort of – all it’s really doing is analyzing a history of how often the people that it knows know the punchline interact with the person its assisting, then, if it thinks there’s a low incidence of crossover, it’ll try it out.”

“Frankly, Mitch, that’s how I tell my jokes as well.”

“We’ve been over his code with a fine toothed comb, repeatedly. After what happened last time, we actually reformatted him, just in case. We’ve got over ten-thousand of these guys out in the wild, and this is the only one that’s killed a man. If it hadn’t been for the fact that one of our quality assurance ladies has an obsession with perfection that drove her to memorize his serial number, we wouldn’t even have been aware that it was the same unit.”

“You refer to it as a “him”, why is that?”

“Oh, I, uh, don’t mean it, it’s just that after a long while of working with a ‘bot you start to project – it’s probably because the milkers we build have suction cups, and the slaughterers have a pneumatic spike.”

“What happened the last time your product killed someone?”

“Well – it was ruled an accident. We ran tests; we stripped him down; in the end we couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was. You can’t always anticipate what’ll happen when you bring that many interfaces together, but it was obvious from the volume of alternates we had in the field, and the number of man-hours logged without incident, that it was a fluke.”

“- and still a fluke the second time?”

* * *

It took the jury four days to determine they weren’t going to come back with a proper verdict, and the press were relieved that a hung jury meant they could keep the ratings going for at least a few more months.

When the announcement was made, Grumpy rolled gently back and forth, twice. The robot’s lawyer put a hand out onto the unit’s boxy shell – unbeknownst to both, a Time cover in the making – then directed his client out of the courthouse.

The defendant rolled past the cameras without comment.

 

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 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 096 – The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

19 Nov

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Ninety-Six.

Tonight we present The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

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

These are not some of them:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
I went home.

(With apologies to Robert Frost.)

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 tale of slightly silly visitation and confrontation.

Flash Pulp 096 – The Ad Blitz, Part 1 of 1

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

The city of Cleveland disappeared beneath a thick gray cloud the week before Christmas.

Cars, dogs, tanks – anything that entered the fog, disappeared.

Neither could radio, television, or cell signals escape the blanket. An unnerving number of military and scientific personnel were sent into the haze, only to lose contact. On the third day, the general order was given to simply wait.

After thirteen sunrises filled with silence, a trickle of pedestrians began to stumble out of the gloom, their only memory of the time being that they seemed to have watched quite a lot of television. Relieved at the apparent lack of harm, late night television hosts began to joke about the recent improvements to the Cleveland skyline.

Seventy-two hours later, the cloud was gone, and the aliens had made themselves known.

They said they meant no harm, that they’d come to trade with our genetically rich planet, but that their true forms would likely terrify our primitive minds, so they’d taken on the guises of our most beloved cultural icons.

This news was largely disseminated by having a brightly-afroed clown from Beta Pegasi on The Today Show. Along with massive ratings for the network, stocks in the McDonald’s corporation took an immediate rise.

Only the lawyers seemed off-put by the sudden animation of so many beloved corporate mascots.

In the following months it became commonplace to see the Pegasans in every major city, making no effort to hide as they walked the streets as talking bears, or giant two-legged jugs full of sloshing red drink, or geckos with British accents.

Science FictionA brief, but intense, period of cultural exchange began. The world’s militaries took on a gleam-in-their-eye when presented with energy weapons to revolutionize killing each other, scientists marvelled at the genetic materials and high-end molecules they were presented, the criminal element was soon frozen in carbonite, the new generation of children’s toys became an enticement to all ages, and law students began to pore over complex systems of intergalactic judicial consideration.

No transaction went unrecorded in contract form, in triplicate, and no new novelty was presented without some price. Within a year all that might be bartered for had been given to the aliens, and, worse still, humanity began to suspect that the invaders were laughing at them behind their backs.

Earth’s lack of coordination had lead to disaster. Each government had secretly promised swaths of land and communal protections to the Pesagans, only to discover that their rivals had made the same bargains, and that the Pegasans now owned a larger percentage of the globe than did the humans themselves.

The planet’s militiaries reacted first. To their surprise, their new weaponry was a match for those maintained by the invaders, and their tenacity brought several early successes. Despite the victorious aggression, hostilities were quickly brought to a halt when a massive starship appeared in the pacific skies. From deep within came a message from the Stellar Trade Commission: cut it out, or face embargo. Unwilling to risk the competition within their own race receiving an advantage, the world’s forces called a halt to their march.

Even as mankind was being forcibly migrated from lands their ancestors had known for thousands of years, a cabal of scientists attempted to put forward a report proving that long term co-habitation would eventually lead to mutual ruin. The Pegasans were quick to respond with their own study determining that another century of observation was necessary to prove the theory. They did, however, offer to submit the paperwork for the Stellar Trade Commission research grant that would be required.

The criminals were too well contained to even attempt to pop the Michelin Man. The children simply shrugged their shoulders and returned to their holo-gaming.

Milo P. Schwardenbach, however, was not amused.

Milo was but one of the lawyers which Nintendo Of America retained on staff, but he was the only one that had buried the sharpened end of a pencil into his ham and pickle sandwich the first time he’d seen a life-sized Italian plumber walk past his working-lunch. So he’d spent six months learning the galactic common speech, then began reading.

Where diplomacy crept with tender feet, copyright law moved with steel-toed boots.

After Schwardenbach was victorious in STC court, and Nintendo was awarded most of the British Isles, a flood of cases eventually retook the entirety of what had once been mankind’s.

There was another round of human-complaints, but, in the end, it was generally felt that at least it was their United States of Budweiser.

 

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)

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(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.

Flash Pulp 086 – Sgt Smith and The Dish, Part 1 of 1

29 Oct

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty-Six.

Tonight we present Sgt Smith and The Dish, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

Play them all backwards and discover the truth behind the death of Paul McCartney!

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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, Sgt Smith finds himself nervously attending a social.

Flash Pulp 086 – Sgt Smith and The Dish, Part 1 of 1

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

Mulligan,

Whenever I had reason to be nervous about my day, your Mom, probably because of her Pennsylvania Dutch upbringing, always had the same solution: pie. There’d always be a slice on hand, often blueberry, my favourite, and she’d eat with me in the stillness of the morning as we sipped our tea and pretended like nothing was wrong.

Mulligan SmithI remember having to take particular care at that breakfast, as I was wearing my Sunday best. It was the only decent set of clothes I had at the time, beyond my uniform.

Then, when I was done, she straightened my attire and told me to watch my tongue.

She was a kidder, that one. I know what she meant though – your touch for subtlety didn’t come from my side of the family.

Anyhow, it was 1956 and, after our morning ritual, I had to leave for a date. It wasn’t long before the sun was burning my prematurely balding pate and I was fussing with my tie in the noonday heat. Around me, the picnic area was awash in color. Balloons had been fixed with ribbons to the edges of all the tables; green, red and yellow streamers hung from the tree branches; and the loud dresses and Hawaiian shirts were out in full Saturday-in-the-suburbs force.

I don’t think they would have set me up with the date if they thought I was actually going to meet her, but they were stretched pretty thin which is probably why they sent a mute to a social event.

Two card tables had been hauled onto the grass, and pushed together to create a buffet area. As folks came strolling in, they’d drop off a little something for the smorgasbord, then wander into the surrounding knots of familiar faces.

It was a beautiful day, but when I think of it, I can’t help thinking about the flies – I don’t know what it was with that neighbourhood, but it seemed to be swarming with those buzzing aggravations.

I was standing at the edge of the crowd, trying not to look too interested in the red-faced old guy who’d been highballing since I’d sidled in – his drinks had gotten him into berating two hand-holding teenagers – when Beatrix arrived.

She stepped from the car, her legs extending from her well-cut baby blue dress like an invitation to sin. As she collected up her goods, the mother of one of the teens stepped up to the tipsy codger in an attempt to explain that the young couple were promised to be married. All eyes were discreetly on them, and not the blond, her hair piled high, who moved confidently from her car to the food table to lay out her covered bakeware.

She was as much a stranger to the party as I was. When we were alone together later, she told me she’d driven all morning just to be there.

As the family drama played out to my left, my eyes stayed on the veiled dish – at least, until a tall woman, her hair held back by a hankie, approached me to chat. I doubt her intentions were anything more than getting a better view of the burgeoning tussle between drunken galoot and defensive housewife, as she seemed little interested in the fact that my lack of a tongue made it impossible for me to maintain my end of the gossipy conversation she eagerly began to recite, stopping only to sip at her wine glass. I don’t recall anything of what she said, I mostly just remember the rock of tension growing in my belly, and the tickle of the occasional fly trying to seek shade under my shirt collar.

Your mother would have known how to better handle the situation; she was always the social one.

I watched the blond set down her bakeware and pull back the simple dishtowel she’d been using as a cover.

I tried to move then, but I think the gossiping woman thought I was coming in close for an especially tantalizing bit of information – she grabbed my arm to steady herself.

Two kids, I swear both of them wearing full boyscout uniforms, stepped up to the table for some grub.

The baby-blue dress stood back, her eyes bright, and I tried again to make my way around the handerchiefed woman- but she was caught up in her own story, laughing by then, and I couldn’t shake her off.

I hadn’t been at the last party to observe the aftermath, but I’d seen the photos: the blood filled vomit, the trashed cutlery spread across the lawn by the fleeing crowd, the weeping children, the glassy eyed stare of Martin Nikolaus, dead but still wearing a child’s coned party hat.

I pushed her.

All eyes moved from those gathered around the teens, to me.

I jumped over the prone woman, and a fella in a tweed jacket stepped into my path.

“Hey now,” he said, grabbing, and ripping, my white Sunday-shirt.

I couldn’t take the delay, so I pushed him over too.

My objective, still holding her dishtowel, had an epiphany regarding my intentions.

She started running.

I may have been the last resort, the bottom of the barrel only out there because we had two hundred miles worth of suburban get-togethers to cover, but there had already been three unfortunates done in by Beatrix’s Drano Casserole, and I wasn’t going to be remembered as the guy who didn’t move fast enough to save the ranks of Scout Troop 97.

On my way by, I upended the table, sending Jello and deviled eggs out over the lawn.

She’d parked across the street, and I was lucky that a dinged Ford truck had pulled up too close behind her. While she was trying to reverse out, she bumped its fender, then, panicking, she miscalculated the distance to the red Buick in front of her and slammed into it with the full force of her chugging engine.

I dragged her from the car then; blood was running down her mouth from the nose she’d broken rebounding off her steering wheel.

By the looks I was getting from the crowd, you’d of thought I was the monster. I’d likely have taken a terrible beating from the tweed jacket who was briskly approaching to defend his manhood, but by then I had my badge out. I was going to sign for someone to call the police, but I could see half-a-dozen party goers already streaking home to set the phone lines ablaze.

Beatrix Johnson – Killer Bea; she never spent a day in prison.

We didn’t have lady serial killers back then, we just had “troubled women”, so she landed in a sanitarium. Still – an asylum then makes prison now look like a resort and spa.

It was probably just as much a relief for me, as it was for her, the day they found her hanging by her bed-sheet.

I still haven’t had any casserole in over half a century though – I’ll stick to pie.

Dad

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 084 – Ruby Departed: Shuffle, Part 1 of 1

26 Oct

Flash PulpWelcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty-Four.
Tonight, we present Ruby Departed: Shuffle, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Flash Pulp on iTunes.

Now with 20% more pulp than the next leading brand!

To subscribe, 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, Ruby departs from the home of Melody Hannikainen, although not entirely empty handed.

Flash Pulp 084 – Ruby Departed: Shuffle, Part 1 of 1

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

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

Ruby Departed: Shuffle

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 081 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 3 of 3

15 Oct

Welcome to Flash Pulp, Episode Eighty-One.

Flash PulpTonight, we present Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

This week’s episode are dedicated to the recent marriage of Elektro and Anycheese – long may they live and love.

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, Joe learns the terrible truth about Lol, planet of the cactus people.

Flash Pulp 081 – Joe Monk, Emperor Of Space: Groupthink, Part 3 of 3

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

Joe was on the roof by himself for quite a while.

After the tower fell, his scarlet clad companion had spent ten earth-minutes berating him in a variety of buzzes and hums. As the human did nothing in response but stare at him with a slack-jawed expression on his face, the elevator operator had eventually made a crossed limb gesture, which Monk could only assume was rude, and then disappeared back into the box.

Realizing there was no other exit, Joe had kicked the downed antenna, stubbing a toe in the process, then used the toppled rod as a seat.

He still held out some small hope for a victory parade.

After a time he became convinced that the elevator operator was a spy for whatever evil puppet-master was running the planet’s zombies, and he was sure his best chance was that a resistance of newly freed cactus people would spontaneously rise up, rescue him from his perilous perch, and then praise him as their saviour.

While he savoured the daydream, two round robotic drones topped the edge of the building and began to fly in slow circles, the shining lenses at the center of their metallic bodies focusing on his movements.

An hour later the elevator re-opened, depositing Macbeth onto the rooftop.

His claws ground against each other as he approached.

“I told you to stay in your room,” he said. The severity of the situation was made obvious to Joe by the trilling notes in his friend’s voice – when Macbeth was truly angry, his English accent became increasingly worse. In this case it sounded as if he was speaking through a flute.

“I was just trying to help. These people are all zombies! Some sort of evil hive mind has control of them!” Joe stood, approaching one of the two cactus-people in blue who’d accompanied Macbeth to the roof. Miming to the cactii that it should spin in place, he tugged at the collar of its overalls, revealing the metallic disc, with its blinking green light. The light was now dark. “I saved these people!”

The grinding of Macbeth’s claws doubled, and the human could clearly see flakes of chitin falling from his pincers.

“You saved nothing, you jerk. I told you before that these people are on a very long life cycle – they sleep ten of your years at a time! Fine if you’re on a world with no other higher lifeforms and you can just nap for a decade, safe behind your spines, but these people have lives to lead and they need cold hard cash to do it – so why not work it off?”

Monk’s face clouded with confusion.

“These folks are all slumber-labour!” Macbeth continued. “They open the doors, they run the elevators, they even drive the cabs, and they’re all controlled by a central computer that you’d be shot twenty times before you could even sneeze on. That’s why the repair work is so good and cheap – it’s all computer controlled! You managed to wake up a five block radius or so, and you’re incredibly lucky that a runaway taxi, or startled nanny, didn’t accidentally kill someone.”

“I – but.. I…” Joe attempted to interject.

“No. No “buts”. You’ve not only lost these people some pay, but you’ve acted out the equivalent of running into someone’s bedroom in the middle of the night shouting “Ooga-Booga!”. You’re going to need to apologize big time to these guys, and we can only hope that they don’t sue you for their missing income. If they do, you may need to get a sleep-job yourself.” The eyes at the end of Macbeth’s dual stocks shrank to a slit. “I happen to know a place that pays well for exotic-species dancers.”

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.