Tag Archives: short story

Flash Pulp 137 – Jabber, Part 2 of 2

5 Mar

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Jabber, Part 2 of 2
(Part 1Part 2)
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, Will Coffin must also face down the terrible maw of the Jabber.

 

Flash Pulp 137 – Jabber, Part 2 of 2

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

 

Will Coffin eyed the geese paddling about the smooth surface of Capital River, and thought hard about ignoring the conversation. The flow of water had once been too fast here for the foul to comfortably lounge, but the new construction project down stream had done much to stymie the rush. He threw some bread crust to the eager beaks.

As he sagged against the black railing that hemmed the city park along the bank, the young man who’d been speaking set his elbow on the iron and leaned in.

“So?” the youth said, his breath smelling of hot-dog-cart mustard.

“I don’t know what you want from me, I’m just here to help the neighbourhood.”

The close-talker drew back from the response and adjusted his tie.

“Please. I understand why you maintain this folksy “just helpin’ folks, hyuck-hyuck” persona, but I am a man of understanding. I know you are the keeper of thirteen of the thirty-three relics known to exist. I also know that you are a man of some power, and influence. We are requesting an alliance.”

“I’ve seen crack dealers run this same scam.” Will replied. “To them, a friend today is a customer tomorrow. Your boss isn’t interested in politics, or corporate power, or whatever aspiration you figure you have with that poorly-tailored suit – he’s interested in your gooey mouth-meat; and mine; and everyone’s. I’ve read Blackhall’s book.”

“As have I – the man was a liar and a scoundrel – but, if you have such a distaste, why did you agree to come?”

“Your telemarketer tactics of calling me every fifteen minutes.”

“Persistence is the first step to success.”

Coffin cringed at the chestnut.

Coffin“I sympathize with your situation,” he said, “but the tongue you’re wagging is eventually going to be its lunch. You may not be able to understand that, given its ability to run off with your gray-matter, but its inevitable.”

“Oh, I’m not his slave – think of me as his, uh, manager. The Jabber is likely thousands of years old, but these aren’t the dark ages, he can’t just go around gorging on peasants. Someone has to keep him from eating everybody.” Will gave the man’s grin a hard look. The would-be broker continued, “- and uh, there are uses for an indestructible killer, uses by important people. Good people.”

He wasn’t sure if he believed it, but even the hint that the agent was acting of his own free will made it easier for Coffin to attempt to break his jaw. The force of his punch wasn’t the greatest portion of the impact, however, as the shaman had wrapped his silver chain about his knuckles, and the occult links – usually reserved for interaction only with disembodied spirits – caused a brief ethereal shadow to jump from the emissary’s shoulders, as if the concussion had nearly dislodged his living ghost from his flesh.

He collapsed to the asphalt that marked the park’s paths.

Turning his back to unconscious man, and the falling dusk, Coffin started up the squat hill towards the sharp-faced figure, which appeared near fifty, who’d watched the exchange intently. As Will neared, it did not rise from its splintered seat.

Dropping its lower jaw, it began to speak through a a gray quiver of barbs.

“Jubrun talbotin dallingar ed barimu.”

It continued on, and, as the shadows grew, so did the Jabber’s volume.

Soon the form stood on his bench, towering a head’s length over Will, and flecks of reddish liquid began to take flight from the thing’s lips, under the strength of its non-sense argument.

Coffin heard nothing of the hypnotic babble; he’d donned industrial level ear protection as he’d climbed the short rise. When he was satisfied that his modern defence was strong enough to stand the ancient problem, he lit a Zippo in signal.

Concern had crept into the Jabber’s raging eyes, and it turned at the flicker of a pair of worn jeans, and a Motley Crue t-shirt, entering into its circle of influence.

“You goat ####ing ###hole! I’ve heard about you ####-o – you eating tiny little babies tongues and ####? That’s god-####ed filthy, man! What kind of ####ing walrus tugger are you? Will told me you might have even ####ing killed my great-grandmother – ####ing bull#### you #### glazing feline ####er!”

Bunny, Coffin’s roommate, raised high the rum bottle she’d spent her wait with, then continued on in her rant.

The horror staggered.

Despite it’s best efforts to respond, the beast could make no arcane purchase against the polyurethane and plastic noise-canceling ear-muffs, and its ways were too deeply ingrained by time to make any other gambit.

By midnight – with hours spent by Coffin in an effort to turn away pedestrians from the apparent drunken, and screaming, couple – the creature had collapsed.

Will threw the crumpled form over his shoulder with a grunt, and they made their way to the river’s edge.

Draining the last of her liqour, Bunny asked, “What now?”

“Eight years ago I did a favour for a guy named Jim Bondo. He was a foreman working on an office building in the downtown core, and he’d come to the conclusion that his site was on an Indian graveyard or something. It wasn’t – he just had a lot of superstitious Germans on his crew, and that had attracted gremlins to the heavy machines – but I corrected the situation anyhow.” As Coffin spoke, his companion retrieved another bottle from the interior of her over-sized purse. “He’s huge in construction now, runs one of the biggest firms in the city – big enough that they got the contract for the new dam going in down stream. I figure waking up in a few hundred tons of concrete should occupy him for quite some time.”

It was a long walk ahead, and Will was happy to wet his throat when Bunny offered.

 

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 132 – Mulligan Smith and The Navel Gazer, Part 1 of 1

21 Feb

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present: Mulligan Smith and The Navel Gazer, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

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

You may need to buy a new iPhone every year, but a Flash Pulp is forever.

To subscribe, click here.

 

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

Tonight, Mulligan Smith meets a fellow conspirator while watching for a corpulent criminal.

 

Flash Pulp 132 – Mulligan Smith and The Navel Gazer, Part 1 of 1

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

 

Security at the building was tight; Mulligan had already been asked to leave twice, and he suspected his picture was now hanging behind the reception desk, or beside the bank of monitors that tied together the boxy-cameras mounted on every corner and in every hall.

He’d been lead to the rental condos by a snail’s trail of paperwork that followed his accountant-turned-embezzler target, but the nature of the twenty-six floor tower – a home for out-of-town businessmen and government workers who required lodging while visiting the city to complete lengthy projects – meant the staff were well paid to root out anything that might make the occupants uncomfortable.

Smith, with his black hoodie and prying eyes, had fallen into that category.

Still, he knew the rotund accountant was somewhere inside, and the employees could do little about the PI spending his time in the small park adjacent to the rear of the building. Although it made a great selling point for the rare family who rented space in the glass and cement structure, it was on public land, and Mulligan was left alone to maintain his vigil with an unobstructed view of the tenant’s sedans and SUVs.

It was his third day, and he was beginning to feel like he’d memorized the face of every resident without having come across a match for the man whose receipt signature had led him to his stakeout. He’d spent much of the time accompanied by a silent eight year old, who busied herself with a pair of cracked, folding opera-glasses, which she used as binoculars, and a multi-pronged pocket knife, which made Mulligan nervous for her fingers.

On the previous evening he’d matched the urchin to her parents: a suit and a drunk, who let her run wild as soon as the work day began. Neither had the mustachioed look of the wide-mouthed, and beady-eyed, CPA.

Mulligan SmithThe girl’s clothing appeared costly, but unwashed, and her nails were grimy from the hours she’d spent hunkered down in the sand-pit that provided a soft landing to the playground’s winding yellow slide. He’d never seen her climb the plastic steps; she’d simply used the pit to lower her profile as she surveyed the same door he pretended not to be watching from his paint-flecked picnic table.

They’d successfully ignored each other for the most part, but, on that third afternoon, the stringy-haired blond-spy took a seat on the bench across from his own.

She tore the plastic from a package of Lunchables, and offered him a cracker with cheese and pepperoni.

“No thanks,” he replied, retrieving his own brown paper bag of food and fishing out a half eaten PB&J.

The stack of sodium went down in a single bite, and she eyed him as she prepared the next.

“Are you here about the clone?”

Suppressing a laugh was a talent Smith had learned young, and he returned the stern look of consideration that she gave him.

“What do you know about it?” he asked.

Her gaze widened.

“I used to like to swim in the basement, but last week I saw him – I probably wouldn’t have noticed, but he was yelling at me ‘cause I was running beside the pool.” She completed her cracker sandwich and scratched an errant itch at her temple. “I know I’m not supposed to, but he could have said it nicer.”

Mulligan cleared his throat.

“Listen, normally you shouldn’t talk to strangers in the park – ”

“You’ve been here a long time, and you look OK.”

“It doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t talk to strangers.” As he spoke, her face slid into dejection. He felt compelled by guilt and curiosity to fill the growing hush. “- but, uh, you saw a man in the pool who you think is a clone?”

“Yep.”

“What gave you the impression that he’s the result of some terrible science experiment gone awry?”

“Huh?”

“Why do you think he was made by a mad scientist?”

“He’s got no belly button. I’ve seen that on TV!”

“So you’ve been hanging out here watching for him?”

“I’m investigating and waiting.” She ripped open the Kit Kat bar provided for dessert. “I ain’t swimming with no clone.”

Smith nodded.

“A good plan.”

This seemed to be enough to affirm her theory, and they finished their lunches in silence.

As he swung a leg out to deposit his trash in a proper receptacle, the girl stood with a sudden exclamation.

“Holy crapoli! There he is!”

She dived to the turf as a tanned man in a breezy tropical shirt made his way out of his crisp black Cadillac – entirely oblivious to either of them – and entered the condominium.

Mulligan covered his annoyance with a string of muttered pseudo-cussing.

“Frakking Shazbot! That effing a-hole!

He’d noted the high-cheek bones and lanky face on several occasions during his wait, but it hadn’t truly registered till that moment.

An hour later, as two uniformed police officers lead the gaunt man from the same doors the PI had been surveilling, Smith congratulated the excited amateur sleuth.

“You’re pretty sharp to have noticed his missing navel, and it isn’t your fault you didn’t know that a tummy tuck could also remove his innie or outie. Next time you can Google it – my clients have been looking for this guy for a long time, and I’m guessing a laptop might be the kind of reward that would help keep you out of trouble. Just don’t bring it with you into the pool – and, seriously, don’t talk to strange men hanging out in parks, whatever they may look like.”

 

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 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 129 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 1 of 3

15 Feb

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

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 1 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 – tales that’ll warm the cockles of any musky urchin.

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, we introduce Will Coffin, a man of unusual knowledge and charms.

 

Flash Pulp 129 – Coffin: Bunny Davis, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Will Coffin ran his eyes over the shimmering expanse of parking lot, idly wondering what made the power lines hum on a hot day, and dipped his hand into the small bag of sunflower seeds that sat beside him on the bench. He hated his new spot outside of the Eats & Treats, it got too much sun during the day, and there were never any pigeons around to feed, but his old haunt had burned to the ground, and he didn’t feel comfortable loitering in a vacant lot.

Still, people knew where to find him.

He was spitting out the last of the seed husks when he noted Bunny Davis, from the north tower, crossing the street. She was wearing a long, white-fuzzed bathrobe.

Will tossed the plastic sack in the garbage, and laid mental odds regarding her destination: the interior of the chain-store, or his own curb-side office. He stood at a fifty-fifty split until she was close enough that he could better make out her face, and then the odds began to slide. When her housecoat slipped open to reveal her puffy body covered in blood, Coffin moved to stand.

“Will, I need help.”

Rather than interrupt, he simply waited out the obvious part of the discussion.

“I’ve killed Tim!”

It was the last coherent statement she would make for a while, as Bunny seemed to begin an attempt to curl her extremities into herself. Her arms became locked against her rough face, covering the spider-lines left on her cheeks and nose by drink, and she sank to the ground.

“Come on now,” Will said, placing a hand on her shoulder- the knotted knuckles of his long fingers looked out of place on the white fuzz. “You’ll hurt your knees that way.”

He lifted her to his.

Embarrassed on her behalf, regarding her robe, he attempted to draw it closed without bringing her attention to the fact that it had been open. In the end he had to take off his own beaten leather jacket, and place it over her knees. She’d been relatively oblivious during the process, resorting instead to expressing herself through an unwavering, extended-squeal.

Coffin suspected it might have been a scream too large for her throat.

Mr. Nickels, from the east tower, came into the view, hustling his wheelchair across the street while raising a hand to Will. As he neared, he took in the weeping white fluff, and his course altered slightly – instead of intersecting the bench, he sailed towards the store’s automatic doors and disappeared inside.

Unmindful, Bunny continued her kettle-screech.

After a while, Nickels exited the shop. In his lap was the victory prize of a pack of smokes, having been won after ten rounds of jawing with Lornie, the shop’s owner. As he passed, he gave Will a quick nod, then turned, setting his jaw as he made to cross during a blinking yellow light.

Will eyed the sky.

The time was coming when people would be arriving home from work, and he wanted to be clear of the street by then. Between five and midnight, they too shared the neighbourhood.

He stood, pacing a little, which seemed to be enough for Bunny to finally get a grip on the emotional valve that had given way. Her squeal contracted to a halt, and she looked up at Will. She attempted to speak, but at first she could only manage a cough.

After a moment, she did a poor job of spitting a combination of blood and mucus onto the pavement, then she tried again.

“We were just sitting around talking. That song, “Heart of Glass” came on? I love that song.” She made a sound that could have been either a throat clear, or a laugh, and spat again. “Tim says ‘Shut that —-ing thing off,’ but I’ve got half a bottle of backbone in me, and I figure, —- that, we know they ain’t home in the place above or below, so why not have some fun? I turn it up a little and that’s when he —-ing kicks me on the leg, just below my ass. I don’t know if he was aiming for my cheek, or what, but he probably would have broken my tailbone with those —-ing work boots of his.

“I go over, and suddenly I’m staring at the bottom of the table and realizing how much gum we’ve actually shoved under there. He reaches across and turns down the radio, then sits down to butter his toast like nothing ever happened – like he can just ignore that —-. I sat up, got the rest of the bottle down, and went into the kitchen to get the cleaver with the wood handle that my Mom left me when she passed. I’m standing there, and I’m yelling at him, and he just looks so mad that I’m pretty sure if I put the cleaver down, he’s going to pick it back up again, and that’ll be the end of me – but then he starts laughing, and I KNOW if I put it down, it’ll be the end of me.”

Her telling was interrupted as she began to shiver, and Will, glancing at his watch, decided it might be best if they got traveling. He stood, offering her a hand.

As they waited out the cross traffic at the light, Bunny continued.

“Well, after a while he sort of realized we were at a standoff. He decides he’s going to go into the kitchen, and he grabs a fish fillet-er out of the block. I’d followed him into the room, screaming not to —-ing move, when I really should have been running out the —-ing door. Anyhow, he gets the knife and he starts threatening again, and every now and then he takes a swing at me. At first he’s just trying to scare me, but then he cut me, “ she raised a hand to her stomach, but never broke stride on the cracked asphalt of the crosswalk. “I was sure he was going to really mean the next one, so I brought the knife down on his forehead like I was chopping wood. Damned if Tim didn’t fall straight over on his spine – toes of his boots up in the air and that handle pushin’ down his nose – just like Daffy Duck catching a frying pan with his face.”

Her story carried them through the front door of her building, past the red brick work, the Sears artwork, and the fake potted palms flanking the elevators. A Vietnamese woman, holding a brown paper bag of take out, stood waiting. The up button was already illuminated. Bunny distractedly attempted to knot the front of her robe, failed on the first attempt, and had to loosen it once she had succeeded. After a ten minute wait, the panels slid open, and the three rode upward while trying to ignore the unsettling grinding noises of the ancient hoist.

Bunny led the way as they exited, directing him to a long a barren hall, adorned only with a harshly-patterned carpet that reminded Will of his few experiences with Las Vegas casinos.

The smell of the hall filled his nostrils as he passed through it. His stomach growled at the smell of a simmering curry, but was quickly quelled by the stink of a chain smoker. Beneath it all, there was something more: a vague hint of sulphur.

Will followed Bunny’s lead in keeping the door as closed as possible as they went through, but the entryway contained nothing but a filthy rug and a pair of worn sneakers.

“Huh.” Will said, passing through the small dining room, towards the kitchen. He was familiar with all of the interior layouts of the towering apartment blocks that populated his neighborhood.

Upon viewing the sprawled body of the former Mr. Davis, his initial thought was that the knife – a thick bladed affair, its long wooden handle smoothed by years of honest use – had pushed Tim’s nose so far down that it might have been almost funny, if it didn’t look so uncomfortable. He considered pulling the handle up a bit to give the dead man some breathing room, but decided it wasn’t worth leaving the weepy killer to explain why it had been wiped down.

“I want to tell him I’m sorry,” said Bunny.

“Huh.” Will said again.

The cooking area was long and narrow, with a small, floral-topped table on one side. Over the knife-scoured counter a pass-through revealed the living room’s lop-sided couch, from which peeked yellow stuffing from numerous cigarette burns.

“Do you know the price?” Coffin asked.

“Yep,” she replied.

“Go into the bedroom and wait.”

He watched until the white robe had disappeared through the doorway, then bent low over the corpse.

Unzipping the right hand pocket of his beaten jacket, he pulled forth a silver charm on a length of slender chain. The talisman had something of the appearance of a hook, but it’s sharpened point bent into a swirl of intricate lacing, so that threading anything onto it required some maneuvering. At the base of the hook, stuck firmly through the middle, was a drying hunk of meat, which Will made every effort to think of as nothing more than beef jerky.

He dipped the links onto the body’s left cheek, and let the cold metal drag along its temple.

Then he tugged.

Will CoffinThe un-affixed hook had suddenly taken on weight, but Coffin put his arm to it, and out popped the ghost of Tim Davis, as if pulled by an ethereal magnet.

“That —-,” said the phantom.

Will shrugged. “I don’t think the police are going to think so – that’s a mean slash across her belly, and you have a look about you which suggests you may be the the kind of fellow around which a lady might require a little self-defence.”

The apparition narrowed its gauzy eyes.

“You looking to move in on my woman?”

“No. Bunny wants me to tell you she’s sorry.”

“Sorry? Oh, I’ll make her —-ing sorry.” Tim took a step towards the doorway, but was stymied at the end of his tether. Without turning, he demanded to be let go.

“Fine,” Coffin replied. Dropping his grip, the chain went suddenly limp, passing through the spectre and landing in a heap on the battered linoleum.

Davis attempted to bring another leg forward, but found himself pulling against a terrific force.

“What?” was all he managed before he dropped to one knee. His efforts were useless, however; he tumbled into his own remains, once again assuming their exact position.

Will rubbed a tired eye, then picked up his artifact and re-pocketed it.

As he pushed his way into the bedroom, Bunny jumped to her feet.

“Is it over?”

“I told him.”

“Did he say anything?”

The leather jacket raised in another shrug.

Realizing any further answer he gave would be just as unlikely to satisfy her, she moved on.

“About what I owe you – there’s a flat screen in the living room…”

“No, you may need to pawn it for bail.” The woman’s eyes misted as Coffin spoke. “I’ll just take this twenty-one inch, it’s a better fit to the price of the job. I’m going to go, but you need to call the police as soon as I’m out. Show them what he did, and tell them what you told me. Just be patient, and you’ll make out all right – but, by the crushing damnation of Kar’Wick’s-brood, don’t mention I was here.”

Will believed firmly that people better followed his instructions if he spiced them up with some of his professional jargon.

He scooped up the small TV, then waited for some response from his patron.

Bunny nodded.

He exited the apartment, pausing at the door only long enough to hear the three flat beeps that began a 911 call.

 

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 124 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 1 of 3

31 Jan

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

Flash Pulp

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

 

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

Cut back on the Beyoncé videos a little, and enjoy one man’s tales of zombie survival, as told to youtube.

Find it 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 walks a hard road as she comes to grips with the realities of the zombie apocalypse.

 

Flash Pulp 124 – Ruby Departed: Local Hero, Part 1 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

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(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.