FP355 – The Murder Plague: Rat

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Rat

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

 

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

Tonight, Harm Carter discovers an unexpected labyrinth lurking in the basement.

 

The Murder Plague: Rat

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

 

Once infected I wasn’t just another homicidal maniac - no, I was an incredibly well trained homicidal maniac.

The poor buggers around me had quite a problem on their hands.

Take for instance the woman in the maple-brown house, two blocks to the east, who’d turned her basement into a rat’s nest of chicken wire tunnels.

I’d stumbled across the thing after finding nothing more than crumbs and well wishes in her pantry. Now you must keep in mind that, till that point, the dwelling presented like any other of its abandoned neighbours. Upper-middle class. Slightly dusty. Echoing and full of pictures of people I didn’t know. The hardwood floors and caramel-toned walls showed no signs of violence - simply disuse - so I pushed on towards the basement in the hopes of finding a forgotten gun rack or emergency kit.

The Murder PlagueSuch wishful thinking ended on the stairs, however. You couldn’t even reach the bottom of the wooden steps without being forced to your hands and knees to descend any further. From my position at the mouth I could see that the opening was no more than three feet high, and that the route seemed to branch right at an upturned Christmas tree some twenty paces in.

There was also a stink I was too familiar with, the nose-fillingly sweet smell of human decomposition.

I did not relish, nor consider, the idea of plunging, face first, into that tangle of garbage and required tetanus shots - until I spotted the assault rifle.

It was some hobbyist’s heirloom, an AR-15 that had been so extensively modified it would have allowed a toddler to take out a police station. I almost missed it in the darkness of the tunnel, as it was leaned into a corner formed by a blue filing cabinet repurposed as a supporting beam. It appeared as if it had been laid out to be easily snatched by someone approaching from deeper within, but not to be seen by anyone at the entrance.

In fact, it looked as if the rifle would have been entirely hidden had it not had slid slightly from its resting place.

The picture stood clearly before me: The house, quiet and truly abandoned above; the gun, so close and so damnably handy to have when everyone is trying to murder you, (or, frankly, when you’re trying to murder everyone,) and that syrupy decay-stench that you convince yourself no one could live with, so it must be the homeowner dead and rotting in a distant branch of his or her human-sized ant colony.

Would a desperate accountant in a three-piece suit have ignored the fire of paranoia in his brain and crept in, believing he was clever to have pulled together the puzzle pieces? I think so. It’s what I’ve heard the psych people call a loss proposition: Like a raccoon with their hand in a vending machine, we’re wired to refuse to let go of anything we believe we have a grip on.

I did not, however, duck down. I did not even harumph.

I simply backed away on feet as sneaky as I could make them.

I haven’t read any studies, but my feeling is that those in uniform are less likely to buy scratch tickets. Training and hard experience had taught me that when it seems as if the stars have aligned before you it’s highly likely that you’ve actually just noted the imminent approach of a train.

Fear pushed her to finally say something. It was the only thing that ever pushed us.

It wasn’t much of a ploy though.

“Help?” she whimpered, “I’m stuck under a fallen pile of paint cans. I promise. Please help?

“Please?”

The density of the steel loops and carpet samples and newspaper walls made her sound like a lonely ghost at the bottom of a well.

I could have walked away, of course - simply avoided the house in the future - but, for all my talk of training, I was as sick as the rest,and I’d also been taught not to ignore a problem when you have a solution at hand.

She started shrieking when I shattered a side window and began flooding a window well with her garden hose, but the nest of wire protruded right up to the glass. I assume somewhere in that dank hole there was at least one drain, but it was quickly clogged by trash.

I spent the remainder of the day lurking at the top of the stairs, but I guess fear held her till the very end. As far as I know the AR-15 drowned with her.

There are nights, though, when I wake fighting the dead weight of paint cans on my legs and an ever increasing tide of water on my chicken-wire bound face.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP354 – Mulligan Smith in The Seven Year Itch

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Seven Year Itch

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

 

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 dealing with a randy sidekick, illegal chemistry, and a burning secret.

 

Mulligan Smith in The Seven Year Itch

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

 

It was one of Mulligan’s least favourite sort of conversations, and Billy Winnipeg’s attempts at being smooth weren’t helping.

There were six people around the table: Smith’s towering companion, Chester and Eleanor Rice, Darnell and Charlene Byrd, and the PI himself.

Eleanor was the client, but the increasingly confused Charlene was the target of Winnipeg’s preoccupation.

Before Billy could repeat his line about women aging like fine cheese, Smith said, “what we have here is an embarrassment of tantalizing facts, right?

Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator“Drugs, jets, 4am phone calls, thick-armed tough guys - it should add up to something fun, but it doesn’t. A lack of honesty has to go and ruin it all.

“For example: Ladies, did you know that your husbands are oblivious to the fact that you suffer infrequent yeast infections? Chester, were you aware that Eleanor stumbled onto the pharmacy you’d hidden in the bottom of the linen closet? Darnell, do you realize how scared Charlene has been for you?”

Mulligan had already charged Eleanor’s credit card, but his client’s demand that all involved meet simultaneously to hear the results of his investigation had given him an opportunity to indulge in a greasy toasted Western at Martha’s, and, as much as he hated the nature of the discussion, he was determined to draw out the truth long enough to prevent his discoveries from disrupting his meal.

Around a mouthful of omelette and white bread the detective said, “for my money, if you’re not in a relationship that can divulge the unfortunate stuff you’re not in a relationship at all.”

Billy nodding, added, “I’m an open book.”

His understanding eyes lingered on Charlene.

With a wince, Smith lifted his phone and scrolled through his notes.

“So,” he said, “on the eighteenth of last month Eleanor finds a little blue lunchbox beneath the ugly backup guest sheets, and is startled to discover a couple of unlabeled prescription bottles and a baggie full of pills within. Being a primary school math teacher, and the sort of person who gets nervous even when just being approached by traffic cops, she freaks out.

“Between Pinot Noir, online early childhood development forums, and her crafting groups, she’s not generally the type to spend a lot of time reflecting - but she starts connecting the dots.

“There were Chet’s trips to San Jose every few months for ‘work,’ the new password lock on his phone, and the gifts: Designer sweaters, sleek necklaces, chunky rings.

“Logically - as she saw it - she assumed he’d fallen in with a Mexican drug cartel.”

Chester shifted, pulling his blazer jacket tight to his thin chest. He sighed.

Before the silence forced him into saying something more, however, Mulligan saved him from having to make a reply.

“Despite her small town upbringing and deep moral fiber, Eleanor didn’t want to rat on her husband. She also wasn’t sure if her suspicions were correct. That’s where I came in.

“Backtracking from Chester’s meticulously filed San Jose receipts I came up with a consistent name co-insured for the rental cars: Darnell Byrd.

“Better yet I discovered that, though Mr. Byrd also spends a lot of time in San Jose, he too happens to live north of the city. I dropped in to meet him in person, but he was out for the day.

“Still, his lovely wife, Charlene, greeted me at the door and it required very little fishing regarding San Jose to get her talking about her own problems.

“Her husband had been receiving cell calls that left him stressed. When they rang he would depart the room, and all she could hear of the conversations were hushed and aggravated tones. He tried to keep it cool when he came back in, but he really only leans in to kiss her like that when she’s sad, it’s her birthday, or it’s one of those calls.

“Some snooping on Charlene’s part had figured that the numbers all originated from a San Jose area code.

“Worse, a month earlier a large man in a thick leather jacket had parked a chopper in the yard and marched his black bike chaps to the door. He’d looked annoyed when she answered his knock, and he’d just grunted when she told him Darnell wasn’t in.

“As he pulled out, however, she noticed that he had California plates.

“At this point in our talk it became clear the pressure had been building a while. The tale started pouring out.

“She doesn’t even really love Darnell anymore. He’s a good man but it feels like their lives are going in different directions. She’s staying with him because she’s so afraid he’s gotten himself into something he can’t handle.

“She didn’t know who or why, but she figured Darnell must owe someone in San Jose a solid chunk of change.”

Throughout the explanation Darnell’s face had appeared to be made of neutral stone, but his lower lip was now slowly disappearing beneath his upper teeth.

Across the table, Billy threw a compassionate shake of his head in now-blushing Charlene’s direction. Smith’s eyes ground against the roof of their sockets.

The PI continued.

“So, before taking on the glamorous expense of flying to San Jose, I took on the considerably less glamorous job of combing through your trash cans. You know what I found?

“Yeast infections.

“A few phone calls, and a bit of online prying, and suddenly everything was obvious.

“Drugs, hard men, coastal California - it can sound black and white, but, when a possibly coincidental shared STD entered the picture, I realized it added a whole rainbow of colours to the case.”

Pausing, Mulligan pushed the final corner of toast into his mouth - then, swallowing, he said, “male yeast infections are rare, but they happen. Untreated I suspect you could be passing it back and forth for quite a while. Might I suggest that the reported infrequency of both couple’s sex lives coincides with the infrequency of Eleanor and Charlene’s embarrassing problems?

“Might I also suggest that you gents do the respectful thing and take down your supposedly anonymous Grindr accounts until you’re properly into divorce proceedings?”

Martha, taking the silence that followed to mean the meal had ended, approached to ask about the bill.

“Split six ways, I think,” replied Smith, as Charlene’s still-stunned gaze bounced between the waitress and the detective.

After another quiet beat, Billy cleared his throat and said, “actually, I’ll cover her’s.”

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP353 – Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 3 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 3 of 3

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(Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow-in-the-Dark Radio

 

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 enjoys a brief respite from the zombie apocalypse before being forced back into her hungry and unyielding reality.

 

Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 3 of 3

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

 

With special guest, Harm Carter of The Murder Plague!

(Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP352 – Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 2 of 3

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 2 of 3

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(Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow-in-the-Dark Radio

 

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 is reminded once again that the wandering cadavers that surround her are not the greatest threat to her safety.

 

Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 2 of 3

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

 

Ruby Departed: A Zombie Pulp Serial

(Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP351 – Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 1 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 1 of 3

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(Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow-in-the-Dark Radio

 

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 our zombie fighting heroine, Ruby watches a new friend avoid the tearing fingers of the ravenous dead.

 

Ruby Departed: Blame, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Ruby Departed

 

(Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FP350 – Mulligan Smith in Trial and Error

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and fifty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Trial and Error

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Talk Nerdy 2 Me

 

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 matching wits with an apparent psychic.

 

Regulations

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

 

Mulligan straightened his tie and shifted his weight to his left hip in an effort to make the joyless wooden chair more bearable.

Mulligan Smith, Private InvestigatorThe courtroom’s air conditioning was running at a blast that had the smattering of retirees in the gallery whispering complaints about frostbite, but the private investigator considered the inside of his black wool suit an oven. Smith had hated formal wear since his mother had first forced him into a double-breasted vest for his sixth grade Christmas pageant.

Glibert March, the defense attorney, was a suspenders snapper, and his slow pacing around his desktop’s worth of handwritten notes had given Mulligan plenty of time to bake.

It was little help that the faux-wood-paneled room had had a printed sign taped to the door insisting on no outside food or beverages. The cherry slurpee the detective had abandoned, he reflected, would have brought down his temperature as well as help wet his increasingly arid throat.

Finally, rocking back on his heels, the white-haired lawyer asked, “is it true that you hold a vendetta against psychics, sir?”

Smith shrugged. “Well, it’s true that I’ve run across a few, and that it doesn’t usually end well for them, but it’s mostly just that occasionally I get lucky and stumble across work that isn't a husband with loose pants or an insurance fraud gig. I don’t have anything against kleptomaniacs either, unless they steal something.”

The red and white elastics holding up March’s pants were made taut by their owner’s thumbs.

“My understanding is that your client has given mine a full apology? Mrs. Helms certainly doesn’t seem to think he’s guilty.”

Wilbur Underwood, the defendant and a man with a mall Santa’s smile and beard, nodded emphatically at his counsel.

“My client,” answered Mulligan, “is under the mistaken impression that her dead mother is upset with her for having caused a fuss. She refuses to say where she got the notion, but I don’t think it takes a telepath to guess.”

March smirked and asked, “isn’t it also true that she feels you did nothing and refuses to settle your invoice? Could it simply be the case that you’re bitter at the loss of a paycheck?”

“We’re here in a criminal court because Capital City’s finest deemed it necessary to get Mr. Underwood off the street and away from the old ladies he was bilking. Do I like Wilbur? No, but it has little to do with the meals I’ll be missing and more to do with his lying, cheating, robbery, misrepresentation, and extortion.”

The pseudo-Santa snorted an outraged, “Ho!”

“Save it for the Ramones, pal,” answered Smith. “Let me be clear as to why I’m here: We’re talking about a grown man who loafs around his half-million-dollar condo until lonely people with emotional issues punch their credit card numbers into his automatic billing system and his phone rings. Maybe they miss a dead loved one, maybe they’re fretting over their own mortality, maybe they’re just lonely - whatever the case, they give Underwood a call and he answers with that soft burr of a grandpa voice.

“I can almost forgive him for the solitary folks - he’s getting paid, sure, but at least he’s keeping them company for the money. Even the usual ‘did you have a loved one who died of cancer? Was there an ‘E’ in their name?’ stuff is relatively harmless, if expensive.

“No, it’s the house setup that gets me. His ‘vision walks’ in which he asks the poor schmuck to picture their home.

“We’re at the front door,’ he says, ‘push it open. I’m in your mind with you, but to keep our connection strong you should tell me what you see. What are the things that matter most to you here - how do you see them? WHERE do you see them?’

“Ten minutes later they’re telling him about how sad Grandma’s string of pearls makes them, or how they still worry about the fight they had over the jade family heirloom they once had appraised on the Antiques Roadshow.”

“You’re well aware that it’s part of his technique,” answered March, “he asks it of nearly all his clients.”

“Yeah, and I wonder how annoyed he gets if all they focus on are family albums? Probably not as annoyed as the people who discover, a few weeks after they’ve hopefully forgotten the details of their session, that they’ve suffered a strangely precise B&E - and wouldn’t you know it, the object of their anxiety is no longer there. Is that how you allegedly better your client’s lives, Mr. Underwood?”

There was a legal scrimmage then, between the prosecutor, the judge, and the now red faced March. Mulligan regretted that it meant more time in the suit, but, before he could inquire about locating a turkey baster, the low murmuring broke up and details were deemed stricken from the record.

Again calm, the defense lawyer rolled back in his loafers and continued his interrogation.

His tone, however, had gained a hint of righteousness.

“You're telling me you've come in here in your twenty dollar suit to shake down this poor man on the basis of a series of unfortunate coincidences?

“Wilbur’s generosity is well known throughout his neighbourhood. When he hired me on I was invited to a party in his home that seemed brimming with good cheer and friends who he had only helped better. ”

The lawyer’s voice grew hushed and thick. “You do not trust his line of work? Fine, but you cannot deny that it brings a certain whimsy and warmth to the lives of those he touches. A little something more - you might even say, a little something otherworldly?”

The private investigator’s eyes briefly widened, and he asked, “you seriously believe in him, don’t you?”
“Listen, I don’t care what Underwood does to make himself feel better, but I believe you when you tell me that he holds parties after ‘allegedly’ doing things like pawning Mrs. Helms’ dead sister’s earrings.

“You implied I was wasting my client’s money during the weeks I was following Underwood on his errands - well, let me tell you about an incident I witnessed just before things really hit the fan.”

“I don’t think -” began March, but Mulligan interrupted:

“It involves a Horizon Blue 1960 Corvette convertible.”

Smith paused then, yet his inquisitor simply raised his left brow and sent his thumbs in search of his released suspenders.

The detective tugged at his tie and began. “I had trailed Wilbur to a Whole Foods, which was weird for a bunch of reasons, including that it was on the far side of town from where he usually bought groceries, and that he rarely seemed to cook anything beyond those oven mini-pizzas anyhow.

“Wilbur is an eatin’ out kinda guy.

“Anyhow, it was maybe 8:30PM and a beautiful evening; warm with a hint of a breeze, and exactly the sort of night a classic car nut waits for to cruise with the top down.

“Even though the lot was mostly empty the Corvette was parked way back from the lights to keep it safe from being dinged by a rushing soccer mom’s minivan. Fifteen minutes after our arrival, Mr. Corvette returns with a bag in one hand and his keys in the other.

“From a few rows behind him, Grampy Underwood steps forward shouting, ‘sir, sir!’

“The shopper turns, but Wilbur gives him a worried look and rushes right past.

“As the mock psychic hustles around the ‘vette’s trunk a hooligan of maybe eighteen suddenly jumps up wearing full action-flick-burglar duds, balaclava included, and sprints away while trying to tuck a lock jimmy into his pants.

“Nothing’s actually happened of course, but the owner says, ‘wow, you’ve saved me from a world of despair.’

“‘Sometimes I get certain - feelings -’ replies Underwood, already starting into his patter.

“The whole arrangement cost him a hundred bucks, a free reading for a store clerk he knew, and a bit of internet research. I know because I was a half-block back when Underwood originally picked the masked kid up, and later on I had to offer twice as much to get the little bugger to narc on him.

”What I really want to know, though, is how long it took Wilbur to mention he needed a lawyer, and how big a discount he talked you into for supposedly saving your roadster, Mr. March?”

It would be the end of the detective’s testimony, but the remainder of the trial did not go well for Underwood.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

FCM013 – Half Time

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Skinner Co.

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast Minisode 013

* * *

  • Satan House!
  • * * *

    Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

    * * *

    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://flashpulp.com, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    FPSE20 – Seeing the Light

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    Welcome to Flash Pulp, Special Episode 20.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Seeing the Light

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Bourbon Lounge podcast!

     

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

    Tonight we find ourselves at the scene of an execution, with only moments till the axe falls.

     

    Seeing the Light

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

     

    Skinner Co.

     

    Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    Freesound.org credits:

    Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com - but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

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

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