Tag Archives: murder

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

22 Mar

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

Flash Pulp

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The codger harrumphed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa caught the pity in her friends’ eyes.

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

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

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

It was Minnie who tripped her.

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

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

 

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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

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

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

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

19 Mar

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

Flash Pulp

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded, sloshing tepid water across the tiles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He hopped in, yanking the handle shut.

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

 

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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

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

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

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

16 Mar

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

Flash Pulp

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I parked the Escalade on the pavement, facing east.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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

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

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

Flash Pulp 135 – Influence, Part 1 of 1

1 Mar

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty-five.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Influence, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.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 tell a chiller tale, regarding Clifton Wade – a man who finds himself in a tenuous situation.

 

Flash Pulp 135 – Influence, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Clifton Wade leaned against the exit, his eyes locked on the ground, and the sliver of light that was the only illumination in the tiny room.

His breathing seemed to bounce from the ceramic tiles and close walls, in perfect time with the metronome tapping of the dripping sink. He whimpered in the darkness of the bathroom, his left hand solidly locked on the brass knob, and his right on the white, plastic, light switch.

Flooding the room with fluorescence was tempting – so much so that his fingers were sweating. He knew, however, that he couldn’t; if he flicked on the glowing tubes, he would be unable to tell if a shadow passed over the far side of his meager barricade.

Fearful tears stung his eyes.

There was little he agreed with his Mother-in-law on, but now, as he wished himself invisible, her words rose to taunt him.

“Cliffers, you should have that doody-mouth washed out with soap.”

In the apartment beyond, a latch rasped, and the sharp click of a suddenly-released handle brought his lungs to a halt. He brushed aside the pink bathrobe, hanging down the back of the door from a white hook, and pressed his cheek to the cheap plywood.

At first there was nothing, but, after a moment, a dragging tread began to shuffle across the carpet, approaching his hidden position.

The glimmering thread, at his feet, dimmed – grunting snuffling filled its place, and he clenched against the urges of his bladder. Long seconds were measured by the ever-leaking faucet.

With a final snort, the sounds moved further along the hall, and the faint sheen returned to the tiles.

He knew it was only a brief respite.

* * *

ChillerIt had started an hour earlier, while he’d been sharing a breakfast of bran flakes with his wife of twenty years, Vanessa.

“Maybe we could consider looking into a nice place for your mom to go to? I don’t mean like a home with meanie nurses and rude neighbours – I could get a second job and swing one of those fancy golf villas in Florida? Like that pamphlet we got in the mail?” he’d said.

“Oh dear, sweetie! How in the heck can you even start talking like that? Mama doesn’t know any place but ours!”

“Honey-bunches, when you first asked if she could move in, you said it was just going to be for a bit.”

“Darnit: “The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” Mama sent me that quote – I don’t remember who it was by, but it’s on Facebook – and she’s absolutely gosh darned right.”

“I have shown patience – but she… she always tells us what to do. I don’t like spending my evenings watching The Bold and The Beautiful. I don’t want to learn to knit! I don’t like that she picks out what we wear! I don’t think it’s appropriate that she makes me a packed lunch every day for work, and that it always includes stuff I repeatedly ask not to have! I don’t like bananas, however much potassium she may think I’m deficient of!”

“She’s just trying to do what’s good for you.”

“Honestly, honey, I love you, but – she kind of scares me.”

“Jeepers! You’re impossible when you’re like this. Let’s wait till Mama’s here, she always knows best, she can talk some sense into you.”

“Oh, #### off,” he’d replied.

It had just slipped.

Vanessa wasn’t a child – she didn’t say “I’m telling” – but he knew she’d thought it. He could read it on her cockamamie face.

* * *

There was a knock

“Mamas gotta number two. Please don’t be in there much longer, Cliffers. Poopy, or get off the pot, as they say.”

Clifton decided he had no choice but to face his fear.

Picking the knife up from the counter, he blew a kiss towards his wife’s punctured corpse. Her body was smeared in a mixture of Mr Bubble and blood, and lay awkwardly on top of the rubber-ducky patterned bath-curtain which she’d ripped down as he’d chased her into the tub – but he could see none of it in the dark.

He turned the door handle.

 

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 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.

The Court Of Popular Opinion

23 Dec

Johnny FiveSo, about last night:

Forget the Turing test; humanity isn’t going to accept any machine as sentient until it’s been convicted of a murder.

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

2 Dec

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and one.

Flash Pulp

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

In truth, I rather liked the Hernandezes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hallo, Hernandezes!”

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

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

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

“George?” I asked the hovering fellow.

I began striding up the steps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He waved to me.

 

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

Where The Bodies Are Buried

26 Aug

Tree Line
A member of the Relic Radio forums brought this article to my attention, and, since reading it, it’s had a terrible grip on my imagination:

The brothers first heard about Duffy’s Cut from their grandfather, a railroad worker, who told the ghost story to his family every Thanksgiving. According to local legend, memorialized in a file kept by the Pennsylvania Railroad, a man walking home from a tavern reported seeing blue and green ghosts dancing in the mist on a warm September night in 1909.

“I saw with my own eyes, the ghosts of the Irishmen who died with the cholera a month ago, a-dancing around the big trench where they were buried; it’s true, mister, it was awful,” the documents quote the unnamed man as saying. “Why, they looked as if they were a kind of green and blue fire and they were a-hopping and bobbing on their graves… I had heard the Irishmen were haunting the place because they were buried without the benefit of clergy.”

[…]

Two weeks ago, a new piece of evidence came up from the ground at Duffy’s Cut: A skull with a perforation that could be a bullet hole. “In fact, we can see some nice cracked edges that do look very much like a bullet hole,” Monge observed. – CNN

Maybe this is just a ghost story ingrained in family tradition – I do love the idea that some kernel of truth wrapped in an oral history carried on data that was unknown to the stacks of documentation every modern zoning, purchase or construction creates – but my mind can’t get over the fact that it might be something darker.

What if it does turn out these men were murdered? What if a fun family custom actually originated when Great-Grandfather Watson began spinning tales to commemorate the graves he himself had dug?

What if the self-aggrandizement of a long dead serial killer now leads to the discovery of his previously undocumented crimes?

Dread Pirate Roberts

2 Nov

Dread Pirate Roberts

Am I wrong in assuming that The Dread Pirate Roberts, (and thus, Westley) has killed quite a number of people?

Is there some loophole I missed, or do we just sort of play down that aspect of the character?

(I realize you could get away with things like that back then, but it still seems like a pretty brutal character point for a kid’s movie.)