Tag Archives: pulp fiction

Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3

16 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and thirty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the collected jabberings of Captain Ignatius Pigheart – frothy tales of mermaids and seamen, as recounted by the Captain himself.

Buy the stories, full of humour and high adventure, at CD Baby

 

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

Tonight, Will Coffin must ask a difficult question.

 

Flash Pulp 130 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 2 of 3

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

 

Stepping from the elevator, Will adjusted his hold on the television he’d recently received as payment from Bunny Davis, and moved towards the small office that adjoined the lobby. Between the slats of the aqua-marine blinds, which the building’s superintendent had hung to provide some privacy within the glass walls, Coffin could see the short Lebanese man behind a stack of paperwork.

As the manager noticed his approach, a hand went to the rosary Will knew he kept tucked in the A-shirt he wore beneath his polyester armour.

“Can I ask a favour, Fadi?” Will said through the open doorway, while balancing the TV against the jamb.

“Of course, my friend.” Fadi tried to smile.

“Rewind the tape twenty-minutes.” As he spoke, Coffin’s eyes tracked to the monitor displaying footage from the only working security camera in the entranceway.

The smile finally took, and the little man rose from his cluttered desk, making his way to the ancient VCR.

“Things are well?” he asked, his fingers stabbing at the device’s faded buttons.

“As well as ever,” Will responded. “You may want to call Kim and her friends to come by tomorrow morning though, you’ll have cruisers parked out front pretty soon.”

There was a moment filled with only the hum of the tape machine taking back time. The office dweller sucked in his lower lip and released it from between his teeth with small pop.

“That should be enough.” With a metallic clunk, the recording process began anew.

“Thanks,” said Coffin.

“No problem, my friend.” the manager replied. His grin had faded.

Will gave a quick good bye, then departed. As he did so, he saw the suit move to grab the phone – likely to make an appointment with Kimberly Berg, a mutual acquaintance who ran a crime-scene cleaning crew.

It was a short walk to his own apartment, and, after storing the twenty-one inch set in a bedroom closet stacked full with screens of all sizes, he threw his coat across the red wing-back chair which made up the only furniture in his living room.

He spent a few seconds staring at the sliding glass which lead to the balcony, then turned to face the kitchen. Stepping onto the cold tiles, Will flicked on the lone still-functioning fluorescent bulb, and considered his options. As he completed gnawing down his thumbnail, he strolled back to his bed and reached for the cheap portable phone he kept on an adjacent nightstand.

He called his sister-in-law.

The conversation took about forty-minutes, and he spent the majority of it listening, or saying “sure”.

Once he’d hung up, he stood, and his knees popped in complaint. He always felt older than his years following a talk with Peggy. Shuffling back into the hall, he spared another glance for the patio door, then re-entered the kitchen and prepared some frosted flakes with milk.

He was half way through the cereal when he dropped his bowl in annoyance.

Unable to bring himself to hold off any longer, he strode across the living room’s rough carpet and moved the locking mechanism downward.

Will didn’t bother retrieving his jacket – he didn’t need the silver chain to speak with Sandra.

Sandra was always there.

He dropped a socked-foot onto the cement outside.

Grasping the warm steel of the railing with both hands, he coughed to clear his throat, then spoke.

“Hello.”

Eighteen floors below, Sandy commenced untangling herself.

She lifted her upper body in a crisp push up, and, despite the fact that she whispered into the parking-lot pavement, her voice carried to his ear as if she had snuck up behind him while he was chasing a mystery through one of the thick tomes that lined his bedroom shelves.

“Hello, Will,” she replied, beginning to crawl towards the wall that ran the height of the building. “How are things? How’s your Mom?”

“Yeah, funny – listen, I need a favour.” His eyes never left her form as she once again forced her fingers bloodily between the cracks in the brickwork.

“Hon, if you want to come down here and have a chat, I’d love to provide you any favour you’d please. You know I’ve been missing you.” She had almost cleared the height of the first balcony, and her useless legs beat a sloppy rhythm against the mortar-work as she climbed.

“Tim Davis, from the south tower, had an accident this morning.”

“Yeah, Will, I’ve already heard about Tim. Didn’t seem like much of an accident, the way I was told it. Speaking of bladed objects to the face, do you remember the time that manifestation of Santa Claus came at you with those promotional steak-knives? Back at the Wallmalton Plaza? Long time ago I guess. Do you still hate Christmas because it? Watching you chucking presents to fend him off must have been one of the funniest things I ever saw. You’re lucky for that jacket, or it would have been you, and not that poor fleet of plastic reindeer, who ended up perforated.”

Her stalling chatter had brought her a third of the way to him, and he could see the trail of her progress staining the route. He knew that the bonds of her prison pulled tighter as she rose; that once she surrendered her will to the inexorable gravity that pulled her back to her twisted fetal position, all of the nail and flesh she’d grated away would also find its way home; but he still couldn’t help but feel a little heart sick for the fingers that had once probed his defenses for ticklish spots.

Will Coffin“There was a smell of sulphur before I went in. Other than the obvious, I can’t think of anything that would leave that sort of stench lying around. Also, after chatting with the former Mrs. Davis, I don’t think she’s capable of killing anything under her own power – even with the provocation she had. I feel like there’s something more at work.”

He took in a deep breath.

She had made it past the three-quarter mark, and he was sure she was getting faster with every attempted ascent. It was time to make his closing pitch.

“Oh, I forgot to mention, I talked to Peggy tonight. You wouldn’t believe what happened to Vilmer Jr. last week at school.”

Although their network of conversation carried much information, the dead rarely had news on the living. On those nights when Will came to talk of her sister’s family, the phantasm would often stop before even reaching the mid-point, not wanting to risk shortening the chat.

“If you have anything interesting to tell me by tomorrow morning, I’ll gladly spend some time recounting the details of Vil’s shop-class saga.”

Sandra paused, and he knew he had her – she might have been homicidal, but she wasn’t unreasonable.

“Will, you really are a dick sometimes. Fine, but you better be here early. Hey, in the meanwhile, how about telling me what else you got up to today?” She had resumed climbing, although at a slower pace.

“Sorry,” he replied.

He turned and pushed back the flimsy curtain, quickly stepping over the threshold and pulling the seal tight behind him. As he reset the small lock, Sandra’s muffled scream emanated through the heavy barrier. He felt a flush of respect for the strength with which she resisted the unseen hands that tugged her back to the center of her universe, the small patch of ground she’d inhabited for the last ten years.

Unfortunately, respect was no help when she finally flopped over the edge of the balcony, and began rubbing the juicy nubs of her fingers against the glass. He dumped the remainder of his cereal down the sink, and marooned the dirty dishes on the kitchen table.

“Sometimes you aren’t a very good wife,” he shouted.

The phone began to ring, and he was pleased at the unexpected distraction. As he retreated into the depths of his apartment to answer, however, he was chased by the squeaking sound of a wet squeegee on a filthy windshield.

 

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.

Will Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song – A New Man, by Kevin Macleod of incompetech.com

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

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Flash Pulp 127 – Mulligan Smith and The Bystander, Part 1 of 1

8 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-seven.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Mulligan Smith and The Bystander, Part 1 of 1

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp Facebook page.

As the movie Freaks once said: Gooble Gobble, Gooble Gobble, One of us, One of us!

To join us, 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, Mulligan Smith, PI, finds himself out in the cold.

 

Flash Pulp 127 – Mulligan Smith and The Bystander, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Regardless of the dusting of snow, a small crowd had come to gather outside 240 Maple, most of them having been drawn in by the blinking red bubble-lights of the four police cruisers parked along the road.

Mulligan, his hoodie zipped tight against the chill, watched as the KOCC reporter wrapped her story. Once the cameraman had barked out a quick confirmation that the transmission had completed, and even as the onlookers’ retinas were still aglow with the directional light’s after image, the one man crew, and the correspondent, hopped into the bright-blue news van and gunned the still idling engine.

The PI had used his rubber-necking of the brief broadcast as an opportunity to eavesdrop on the whispered conversations that shot amongst the bystanders, but his time had been largely spent listening to the spouting of an old man whose hat would’ve better served a Cossack. The pseudo-Russian had gone on at length, in a stage whisper obviously intended for more than just his wife, that if there were this many police on hand, they certainly must have the flasher in custody.

Despite the bumper-to-bumper parking, Smith had his doubts.

With his excuse for silence gone, he struck up a conversation with a wispy haired fifty-something, whose face was lost deep in her massive parka.

“Funny what some people will do,” he said.

“Yeah, guess so,” she replied in a thick Wisconsin accent. “Must be a real perverted-type.”

Mulligan Smith“Usually I’d agree, but I’m not so sure this time.” Mulligan took a step closer as he spoke. “Generally a pervert can make do just jumping out of the bushes at a park, or trawling bus-stops – by the time they get around to breaking and entering, it’s not just to share a brief view of their pride.”

“Oh?” replied the parka. “Then what happened here?”

“My guess is that the culprit is seeking attention. They probably don’t get much of it in their regular existence.”

“That’s not what the news-lady said, and everything I’ve read in the paper has made the flasher out to be a goddess in a gas-mask – a little beauty with some sort of weird fetish.”

“Yeah, well, these stories have a way of taking on a life of their own, and legends spring up. Have you ever heard of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon?”

“Uh?”

“The Mad Gasser might have been a person running around Virginia and Illinois in the ‘30s and ‘40s. See, supposedly there was this fellow with a spray gun – the old type that looks like a bicycle pump with a can stuck to one side and a nozzle at the far end – and he’d creep about in peoples bushes until they were sitting around at home watching TV, or whatever – then he’d user the sprayer to try and gas them through cracked windows, or even nail holes.”

“Gas? Did anyone die?”

“Nope, a few folks got sick though.”

“Are you saying you think she used something on her victims and that’s why she wears the mask?” the woman seemed pleased with the idea.

“No, the mask is just so she doesn’t get caught. What I’m saying is that the police chief in Mattoon actually ended up declaring the whole thing a hoax – likely just the product of hysteria, and maybe some chemical releases from a nearby factory.” Smith shrugged. “I don’t know what the reality was, but, as I mentioned, these things tend to collect their own mythology. Maybe claiming you were awoken in the middle of the night by a supple, nude, twenty-year-old makes for an easier confession than the reality of having the bejesus scared out of you by a, uh, stout mother of four, whose children are all college-aged.”

The woman’s eyes grew large, but Mulligan went on.

“Truth be told, I’m actually working for the first victim. Seems he feels his original description of the assailant may not be the most helpful thing in the world, but he’s got too much pride to go back to the police for a second round of red-faced recounting.”

“Why does he still care?” the ex-Wisconsinite asked, her voice now a squeak. “It’s never happened to the same person twice, has it?”

“Well – never mind that if this were a crime committed by a man, the outcry would be triple what it is – the basics are that my client, despite the fact that the increasing media coverage is handling this almost like a case of prankster-ism, spends most nights waking up in a sweat, and now has to get out of bed to check his door locks a dozen times an evening. I do understand a bit of where you’re coming from, though – a guy with that much money rarely has a kind word for the help, and if he’d been more honest in the first place, his pride wouldn’t be in such a bind.”

“How did you know?”

“Well, first off, I actually bothered to look into who’d temped in the house when, and if, each victim’s main cleaning lady was unavailable.” He wanted to be stern with her – he knew he should be. He damned himself for smirking. “You were the only coincidence. If your employers had paid you more heed while you were busy dusting their shelves, they could have recognized you themselves – but then, my suspicion is that if those men had been less inattentive while you were tidying, you wouldn’t have felt the need to make your nocturnal visits.”

He’d thought the woman would break down crying at the news, but she seemed increasingly happy just to be noticed.

He decided he’d actually allow the interview when the KOCC lady called later – it was the least he could do after getting the aging mother fired, and he suspected she’d enjoy the spin he’d give her saga.

He let out a short laugh before continuing.

“Anyhow, it didn’t help that you were pretty easy to spot in the background of the last incident’s news footage. Those boots are pretty tall, and your coat is pretty long, but, if people were paying a little more attention, it’s definitely noticeable that you’re not wearing any pants.”

 

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 126 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 3 of 3

4 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-six.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals.

Ever been to a funeral where you’re greeted at the door by the guest of honour’s slobbering mouth?

Find all the tips you’ll need to survive the zombie apocalypse at http://youtube.com/user/WalkerZombieSurvivor

 

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 wrestles with her conscience – and the undead.

 

Flash Pulp 126 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 3 of 3

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

 

[Text to be posted Monday]

 

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 125 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 2 of 3

2 Feb

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Walker Journals.

Undead Boy Scouts may attempt to consume your brain-matter. You’ll need more than a pocket knife and a knots badge to be prepared.

Find all the tips you’ll need to survive the zombie apocalypse at http://youtube.com/user/WalkerZombieSurvivor

 

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 Departed stops for a beverage and a conversation, as the zombie apocalypse continues on about her.

 

Flash Pulp 125 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 2 of 3

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

 

[Text to be posted Monday]

 

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 123 – Moving Parts: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

29 Jan

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Moving Parts: a Collective Detective Chronicle, 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, the Collective Detective attempts to pick a murderer from amongst a mob.

 

Flash Pulp 123 – Moving Parts: 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

 

“The six month period before the last date tracked in the trio of archives that acts as the backbone of the Collective Detective is basically considered the edge of the world by most contributors.”

Mitch straightened his tie.

“A lot of members of the collective hate working edge-cases, which is probably why I love them. The way some of those guys act, you’d think the ‘net ceased to exist once the NSA stopped tapping everything in 2008, but really its just that they’d rather not do the kind of legwork necessary to track something that went over the line – you know, joining forums, following blogs, trawling news sites.

“It really means that there’s plenty of leads in that period that are actually pretty easy pickings; things that go un-looked into just because of their vintage.”

The lawyer nodded, coaxing him to continue.

“That’s how I came to open the file on Jesse Barber.

“I was looking over the stubs – the list of cold cases that could do with some poking at – and noticed something about a furry who’d been stabbed to death in a parking lot. Now, I’m no naughty mascot myself, but I’ve always had quite a bit of sympathy for those folks. I truly believe that someday we’ll do away with racism and bigotry, but I’m also fairly sure we’ll never get to a point where we’ll tolerate a man in a raccoon costume dining in a high-end restaurant.

“Anyhow, he’d been at a meet-up with other suiters, outside a comic convention, when it happened. I know they have a bit of a bad reputation, but everything we dug up said it was nothing seedy, just a networking thing for other local people with a similar interest, and an opportunity to freak out a bunch of Burger King employees when they finally got hungry.

“My first step was to open a thread regarding all of the Facebookers who’d RSVP’d, and the contributors started nibbling at the list to see if there was any previous connection between the attendees and the deceased.

“Next, I tapped Cameron Wallace and Rory Cummings – uh, BallsToTheWallace, and Kid Icarus, to give me a hand with Jesse’s personal emails. Every editor has a style of working, I prefer to keep the juicer stuff close to home, even if it means a lot of tedious shuffling and sorting. I work with Balls pretty regularly; our timezones are just off enough that he can pick things up when I pass out. I’d never interacted with Icarus before, though, I’d just seen his editorial status set to inquisitive, which means he was interested in being assigned some work. His ratings were high, and I thought the fact that he lived in Seattle, like the victim, would be handy.

“The police had already been over the posting on Craigslist announcing the anti-furry NERF-bat flash mob, and we discovered that at the time it went live, it started quite a bit of debate on a bunch of blogs. Most of the furries on site knew there might be a problem, which meant cellphone cameras were out in force. My first job for Icarus was to get a posse together to locate any clips he could find, and to start a catalogue of the faces in the crowd.

“Then I got Balls on looking for secondaries – basically other accounts a user might have been logging on with. People can connect from anywhere; home, libraries, coffee shops, work; and you’ve got to try and back track it all to get the full picture. Sometimes a guy has a wife he doesn’t want accidentally stumbling onto the Hotmail inbox he’s using for the Tranny-Love mailing list, so he only checks it on his laptop, or sometimes its simply that a person only converses with a friend while at work – which is exactly what happened in this case.

“In the mean time, I was attempting to run down those who’d replied to the original listing on Craigslist, hoping to spot somebody with enough hate to want to kill a stranger. The police investigation had decided that it was probably someone in the mob – someone not content to stop at beating the pseudo-animals with fuzzy bats, and that seemed like a pretty logical line of thinking to me.

“I got nowhere fast though – I realized pretty quickly that way more people had shown up at the event than had responded, and I couldn’t find anyone bragging about anything unusual. Icarus was having just as little luck – cell-video still sucked pretty hard in 2004. The only one making progress was Balls, who’d discovered that Mr Barber was very careful about keeping his identity as Kip Hamsterton separate from his life as Jesse the tech guy. Hamsterton had his own set of email addresses, and a pretty large establishment in a virtual world called Second Life, and Barber had a one bedroom apartment and an overprotective mom.”

Mitch licked his lips and rubbed his scruffy goatee.

“We all switched over to letter sorting, and that’s when we found it: Jesse had had a fling at work, with an accountant whose laptop he’d repaired. It had ended abruptly, but even after he’d blocked Margie Feldstead’s address and stopped replying, she’d been sending him vicious emails calling him a perverted monstrosity. It was obvious what had happened – their first emails were full of puppy love, but sometime on or around the 12th, three months into the relationship and a week before his murder, everything had changed. He’d fallen deeply for her, despite her crazy notions about the government, and he’d probably thought that, if he could accept her nuttiness, she could surely accept his.

“We opened the thread regarding Jesse’s correspondence to contributor assistance, and the three of us started plowing into everything Margie-related that we could locate.

“I can sympathize with a guy like Jesse, but Margie was nothing but a closet crazy. She spent a lot of time in the dark corners of the Internet, where anything bad that happens is somehow the result of a Jewish world order conspiracy or an act of Satan. Within twenty-four hours of finding out about Kip, she’d ordered a ballistic knife from a place in Florida. They were supposed to be against the law, but I guess it was sort of semi-legal to sell the hilt and blade as a package, and the spring that did the shooting as a separate item. For the next few days her Google searches from home were entirely obsessed with the Seattle furry community, and when she found out about the flash mob posting, she had her excuse.

“When we came across the confirmation email with the receipt for the knife, I figured that was it. Still, you get into weird legal grounds any time you pull a case out of the archives, so I did what we’re supposed to do when we think we’ve got one in the can: I tagged it for review by the council; the suits over top of the editors who run all the corporate and legal stuff. It can take hours, or even days, to get a response, and, then, it’s usually just to confirm that they’ve called the police, and to thank you for a job well done.

“I don’t know why Cummings – Icarus – didn’t wait to hear the outcome. We don’t often get to see the perp though, except in the occasional news clip, and he must have been riding the adrenaline rush of having cracked the truth. Whatever the case, it’s obvious the intervening years haven’t been too kind to Margie’s stability. Lord knows how a woman in that state manages to get a hold of a handgun.”

From the behind the defense table, the accused, hardened by the time since the death of Jesse Cummings, attempted to lay Mitch low with her glare.

“That will be all,” said the lawyer.

The judge thanked him for his testimony, and the editor vacated the stand.

 

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 121 – Spook: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

24 Jan

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Spook: a Blackhall Tale, 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, Thomas Blackhall tells of a haunting from his youth, as he experienced it.

 

Flash Pulp 121 – Spook: a Blackhall Tale, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Thomas Blackhall collapsed against an aspen at the edge of an open meadow, fatigue drawing him under, even as the noon-day sun blazed overhead. When he awoke, he found himself in the center of a half-circle comprised of a dozen children, all staring at him intently, by the light of the sagging moon.

They demanded to be entertained.

“A spook story!” the shortest shouted.

“No. Not a made up bit about ghosts,” broke in their leader, who’d obviously been nominated by his height, “a living one; a true one.”

With a shrug, Thomas rubbed at his eyes and straightened his posture.

“Listen, and I shall tell you a tale of both the living, and the dead.

“At the age of ten, my father began taking me to see his family in London, once yearly, for my birthday. Until then I’d never experienced the flurry of city streets and markets, and my eye was constantly wandering over those I thought of as greatly privileged to live amongst such wondrous sights. During my first journey, as we dismounted our carriage and walked the length of houses to my Aunt’s, we passed a pregnant beggar woman, her hands extended and her face pious. Without thought, my father produced an assortment of coins and placed them in her upturned palms. She appeared very pleased at his generosity.

“The strangeness began upon the next anniversary of my birthday, when, while retracing our route, the same beggar-ess stood at the corner. On this occasion as well, her womb bulged. Father repeated his act of kindness, seemingly oblivious to the duplication of the previous trip, but, as we moved out of the woman’s hearing, I joggled his elbow.

““She’s still pregnant, a year later!” I said, with all the naivete of a boy of eleven.

“My father, red creeping into his face at the prospect of explaining birthing intervals, changed the subject.”

Thomas BlackhallFor a moment, Thomas’ stomach interrupted his telling, responding loudly to its empty state. The children seemed to ripple and waiver before his eyes, and he ran his coat over his brow, wiping sweat from his fevered skin.

With an embarrassed grin, he continued.

“On the third year, Mother was too ill to have us depart, but, on the next, we once again made the expedition. As Pa conducted necessary business, my aunt turned me loose upon the market that held court at the northern edge of her block. With enough jingle in my pocket to keep me in jellied eels for the afternoon, I was left to roam with only the restriction that I should stay within a rigorous set of boundaries, the names of which flew from my mind as quickly as Aunt Charity could recite them.

“As I walked the streets of my approximated travel allowance, I came across a boy of my own age, his father churning away at a portable organ as the lad coaxed a small mutt through a repertoire of antics and athletics. I stood watching as long as my eel-coin held out, but, as the grinder began the third repetition of his barrel, his look was becoming one of expectancy, and my bankroll was exhausted. In truth I’d fallen in love with the white and black entertainer, and, as a boy of fourteen will, I was internally attempting to devise a method by which I might make the dog mine.

“Casting about for an excuse to linger, my mind came upon the oddity of the pregnant beggar, whom I proceeded to ask about.

““Well – there’s no shortage ‘round here of those who can’t keep their knees together, if that’s what you mean to imply, young master – but if its Pregnant Polly you’re looking for, she spends most of her time these days in The Miller’s tap room, just a ways down the lane.” He pointed in its direction.

“I hadn’t expected such a definitive response, and so, with a last longing look at the dancing canine, I felt compelled to follow the provided instructions.

“It was a short walk, and easy to spot Polly through the foggy glass – as there were no other pregnant women in the establishment with tankards of ale held in both hands.

“Funnily enough, it was the dog that held my thoughts in the days after. I didn’t think on the woman again until one night while casting lies into the fire with a gathering of my fellow countrymen. I was homesick, and they were weaving tales of the streets of their youths, stories I took in in a sentimental fashion, at least until the name of Pregnant Polly revived my long dormant memory.

“I can not remember the teller’s name, but I do recall the twisted smirk upon his face as he recounted the woman’s life.

“”She was with bairn at sixteen,” he said, “but it would never arrive, though she looked forever in her final month. At the age of eighteen, still unmarried, and perennially bulging, she was little wanted in her parent’s household, and she was set upon the streets. Unable to make a living, even as a bang-tail , she quickly turned to fleecing tourists in London markets. In truth, who would not find some coin for a beggared mother-to-be? Anyhow, her fame grew such that, when she finally drank herself into an early grave, they cut her open, and inside was a babe: one made of stone. The doctor said it had somehow mummified within her, a situation that was rare, but not unheard of, amongst the pages of his medical texts.”

“So it was that Pregnant Polly was forced to wander the streets, the living ghost of a mother that never was, with the corpse of her child haunting her every step.”

Blackhall fell silent then, awaiting a response from his audience. Without a word, each turned on their own time, and began to wander into the deep brush from whence he’d come. As the last reached the clearing’s edge, he seemed to fade into dissipating moonlight, even as dawn touched the horizon.

It was another hour before Thomas rose, and another day’s travel before he encountered civilization, where he collapsed into a month’s sick bed at his prolonged starvation. He would never be sure if the encounter had been in any way real, or nothing but the byproduct of his hasty consumption of tainted mushrooms during his desperate search for food.

 

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 120 – The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

21 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present: The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride.

It’s not him, it’s you.

Find it at http://www.bmj2k.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, four men engage in their singular obsession.

 

Flash Pulp 120 – The Rocket Men, Part 1 of 1

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

 

There were four of them: Chris, Paul, George, and Chuck.

Chris was good with math, Paul was a born artist, George’s Dad ran a scrap yard, and Chuck was a genius.

At the age of eight their skills mattered little, as their friendship was forged in a common goal: the destruction of all Martians. While about them their compatriots wasted their recesses imitating the cartoon ninja spectaculars of the day, the four took up the mantle of The Rocket Men, laser toting defenders of Earth. Whatever the weather, the group could be found beating back the imaginary green menace, and keeping the schoolyard safe from alien doom.

Eventually, though, the Martian threat no longer seemed so ominous.

By the age of ten, one thing remained: their combined love of rockets. Each boy had an image of their own custom space vehicle, hand-drawn by Paul, and each was sure that, given enough time and access to George’s father’s sprawling rubbish pile, the group would be able to create a ship capable of carrying them beyond the bonds of gravity, and their mundane lives.

In July of their twelfth year, Chris’ father gathered The Rocket Men into his Chevy Astro and spent two days subjecting the boys to New Country. They didn’t mind, however, as they knew where they were headed: Florida.

On a warm evening, surrounded by hundreds of other enthusiasts of all ages, the former Martian-fighters witnessed the launch of an actual NASA flight – it was a moment they would reminisce on during sleep-overs, while camping, and, one day, with their own children.

Science FictionDuring their fourteenth Earth-bound year, Chuck struck upon a plan, and presented it with a smile: they would build a rocket. It took a summer’s worth of saving, and no small number of raids upon George’s familial heap, but a week before entering ninth grade, the boys gathered. They met at dawn, and by the proposed time of launch their sneakers were soaked with the night’s condensation.

They’d created a thing of beauty.

The red cone, entirely decorated by Paul – except the sharpie signatures they’d scrawled along the side – was to be largely driven by powder salvaged from fireworks they’d purchased at a disreputable convenience store. The resulting explosion was a topic of marvel and remorse that would remain a point of contention amongst the boys for months.

At the sight of the destruction of their labour, the youths had nearly fallen into despair, and that might have been the last of The Rocket Men had it not been for an outburst from Chuck. The prodigy had always suffered through any defeat or disappointment in the same way: wild laughter. Within moments the entire group had taken his lead and tumbled to the ground, their jaws aching with mirth.

When they finally collected themselves, each one scooped up a shard of peeled metal as a reminder. As Chris and Chuck spent long hours arguing the math of the thing, Paul and George would often fill the time by staring longingly at their keepsake fragments.

All were agreed that someday they would make another attempt.

At sixteen, the group took up model rocketry. It never scratched the itch that building something entirely of their own design had infected them with, but each success was a spectacle that drew them together, even as life seemed to be pulling them apart.

They still talked of constructing a flight from scratch, but privately they could feel the chance slipping away as college loomed.

At eighteen, Chris left to become a physicist, Paul departed for art school, George joined his father amongst the garbage, and Chuck received a scholarship in aerospace engineering.

Letters, phone calls, and emails, were exchanged, but, in time, they petered to a halt. A wedding in their thirtieth year marked the last meeting of The Rocket Men for over a decade, despite the tipsy promises of renewed communication that each had made during the reception.

Eleven years later the silence between them was broken, and it was Chuck who once again brought them together.

The plans he’d prepared were complex – well beyond the model rockets they’d built in their high school days – but he’d also fitted the bill, and provided plenty of suggestions on where to locate any answers they might not have.

After six months of weekend effort, The Rocket Men once again found themselves in the dewy grass of a breaking summer morning, now accompanied by Chuck’s wife, Cynthia, who’d transmitted her cancerous husband’s designs and request.

It wasn’t a massive ship, it could really only manage to lift the dead man’s ashes, but, still, the grinning maniac of their youth had had the last laugh: he would be the first amongst them to reach orbit.

 

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 119 – Mulligan Smith and The Missing Woman, Part 1 of 1

19 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and nineteen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Mulligan Smith and The Missing Woman, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride.

Don’t be fooled by the name, it has almost nothing to do with those long car rides to your grandma’s house when you were a kid.

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, Mulligan Smith, PI, is tasked with the job of locating a thousand dollar thief.

 

Flash Pulp 119 – Mulligan Smith and The Missing Woman, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Mulligan finally found the woman in a highway-side greasy spoon named Trudy’s, an hour’s drive out of Capital City. She looked rough.

He took a seat in a booth, and, as she approached, he prepared to give her his order.

“Just an orange juice, please,” he stopped to read her tag, “Eileen.”

It was sloppy – she hadn’t attempted to hide her real name.

“Coming right up,” she replied, a weak smile touching her lips.

“Just a sec, Mrs. Musgrove.”

At hearing her married name, her sensible white shoes planted themselves, mid-stride. Even from behind, Smith could see that her gaunt arms had begun to shake.

“Sit down – please?” he asked.

She scooted onto the bench across the table.

Mulligan Smith“William wanted me to find you to -,” it was his turn to be stopped short, as Eileen’s tears began to soak the pink t-shirt of her work uniform.

“Hey, it’s OK. William has sent me to bring you home. He forgives you. Every thing’s going to be all right now.” She nodded, but remained silent. Even her weeping made no noise – he wouldn’t have known it was happening if it wasn’t for the moisture rolling down her face.

They sat that way for several long moments, then, with a deep sigh, Eileen finally spoke.

“I’m going to clean myself up, then we can go.”

She walked to the ladies’ room with an unsteady gait, and Mulligan guessed she was likely going to swallow or snort some of the illicit supply her husband had warned him about. It was a calculated risk, but, if it got her home and to help, he was willing to take it – besides, she couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds, and he had his Tazer on hand, just in case.

It was only once he saw her hustling through the parking lot to an ancient Geo Metro, a tall fellow with bad teeth close behind, that he realized the chase wasn’t complete.

She was moving pretty quickly for a seventy-three-year-old.

He jotted the license number down, and waved over another of the waitresses.

* * *

William Musgrove, the client, was an aging gent with sharp bird claws for hands.

“One day she pulled a thousand dollars out of our account and ran. She has a drug problem. Find her, and tell her I don’t care – that I understand, and want her back, and I’ll help her in any way I can,” he’d told Mulligan.

It was only later that Smith felt like an idiot for not having realized at the time: the whiskey breath, the patronizing tone, the vague allegations; he’d seen it all before.

A week after his first encounter with Eileen, he stepped up to the deli counter of a small town grocery store, two hours away from Capital City.

She was busy working a block of cheap bologna over the slicer.

“Don’t run,” he said. He used a gentle tone, and it worked. When he saw that she wasn’t going to make another break for it, he followed it up with a quick question to keep her mind from changing. “Is it true you’re a junkie?”

“What? No! Is that what Bill is saying about me?”

“You did steal a thousand dollars from his account, though.”

“It was our account. I deserved that money.”

“How so?”

“I may not have worked his years at the plant, but I certainly kept his house and cleaned up after his drunken mess for long enough.”

He nodded.

“Tough for a lady to vacate a fifty-five year marriage. I’ve seen similar with the occasional meth-head, but, well, if I had to guess, those hands of his were a little rough after a bottle of Jameson?”

Her mouth flattened to a slit. He thought she might attempt to flee, and he knew he’d hit the truth of the matter.

Pulling out his cellphone, he began snapping pictures of the shriveled woman, bologna still in hand.

“I’ve answered enough – I think it’s your turn to do some explaining.” she said.

“Well, first, the next time a guy like me says “don’t run”, run. You trust men too easily.”

“How did you find me?”

“Well, actually, I found your friend with the Geo. A few twenties later, he was more then willing to tell me where he’d left you. As I was saying, you trust men too easily.”

“Listen, son, I’m seventy-three years old. When I married, I hadn’t even finished high school. If I don’t trust the occasional stranger, I’m going to end up homeless. I’d love to have dragged that mongrel through a proper divorce, but I had never held a job until these last two months, and I’ve yet to find a lawyer who’s willing to work for free. I’ve got little more than my pride, but I’ll be damned if I let you drag me back to that old whiskey-hound’s shack.”

“Well, frankly, this store is pretty crowded, and I don’t think I’d get far if I were forcibly hauling a lady who looks like my grandma out the front door.” Smith paused in his photography. “Could you remove your hairnet, please?”

She did.

“So, what now? I won’t come with you, but are you going to tell Bill where I am?” she asked.

“No. I’m going to strongly suggest you move a little further – at least a state away. After that, I’m going to write up an invoice for three more day’s worth of expenses, then talk to a friend of mine who knows a lot about Canada, and photo editing.” Mulligan thrust his phone back into his pocket and zipped his hoodie. “Can’t catch ‘em all.”

 

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 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.