FPSE24 – Mouthy

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Welcome to Flash Pulp Special Episode 24.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mouthy

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Hugh J. O’Donnell’s The City

 

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

Tonight we present a fairy tale of the oral tradition, as told in the Capital City style.

 

Mouthy

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

 

I operate in special collections. That is to say, I focus on the mystical types – these days I see a lot of shapeshifters, slendermen, and even some of the fish people out of the Pacific corridor.

Anyhow, it was late Tuesday night, or early Wednesday morning if you want to look at it that way. I was on on my last pick up before kicking off, and I was looking forward to downing a couple Blind Russians and heading in search of the underside of my sheets, but it was a tricky situation. My package was on the upper floor of the former owner’s home, while the former owner himself was wandering the lower level.

Nice place too. Vampires, man, they don’t know inconspicuous. I can blend in anywhere from Kinshasa to Portland, but you drop a vampire anywhere and it’s always the same thing: Biggest suburban castle for sale on the market, casket-moving sized car with the windows tinted like a third-world dictator’s, and no effort at all to beautify their lawn.

I’ve been around, and never have I met a vampire that cares about their lawn. They just never get to use them.

Anyhow, I’m a professional, so it’s still not such a big deal. Bingo-bango – I’ve got the prize in my bag and I’m about to hit the bricks when I hear the blood-sponge moaning from the floor below.

A Skinner Co. Production“You sure you made the arrangements?” he’s asking, and I’m wondering how a Boston casket-sleeper gets all the way to the West Coast – I mean, did he move here before he was bit? Did he come in a dirt filled sedan trunk? – when his manservant replies, “of course, have I ever failed you?”

Seriously, who has a manservant these days?

Both of them sounded like they were gearing up for war though, which is a big no-no these days.

I heard the front door open, and I was out the window and onto the McMansion’s roof faster than Jeeves could finishing bowing subserviently to the the Lincoln Town Car’s rear passenger window and skitter to the driver seat.

There’ve been plenty of dead folks in my day-to-day, and I’ve gotten pretty used to what a walking corpse is supposed to look like. As the car’s heavy black slab was swinging shut I caught a glimpse of the nosferatu, and I’m telling you there’s pale and then there’s pale. It ain’t pretty when a vampire gets nervous enough to bite its lip.

Well, I was tired, I was exhausted even, but it was the first time I’d ever seen a bloodsucker scared, so I kicked a leg over Lucy and followed at a safe distance.

It was a pretty straightforward ride across a half-hour’s worth of the city, and it ended at a covered parking structure adjoining an unmarked office. The whole area was filled with little business plazas and industrial shops, so I figured Abbott and Costello were headed to one of them.

I waited.

And waited.

Eventually I wandered into the garage itself, and figured out that there was a glass and metal entrance leading directly inside. For privacy, I guess. It wasn’t locked, so I readied an excuse – I’m a simple courier who must have pulled the wrong door, teehee – and went in.

There was a satyr, just across the threshold, who was pulling a fedora over his horns and adjusting his trenchcoat. I followed rule number one and did my best to look like I knew where I was going. He didn’t even bother to glance down at me, so I just kept on trucking.

Ten feet ahead there was a desk, and the space to my left opened onto a dozen uncomfortable chairs and a coffee table full of long-expired National Geographics.

The receptionist, a bird-eyed woman with carefully applied makeup and a bright yellow blouse, watched my approach silently, but her face was already asking a question.

Closing the distance gave me just under three seconds to figure my next move.

I could’ve been about anywhere if the waiting room was all I had to judge by, but suddenly there was a squeal in the air, and even I know what that means.

“Could I get a booking today? Soon?” I asked.

“Funny seeing one of you here,” she replied.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at her directness, I suppose – she looked to have been the commander of that waiting area for a long while, and she must’ve seen all types in her tour of duty.

With that in mind, I played it soft.

“Yeah, well, cavities can happen to anyone, right?” I said with a smile, because part of me can’t help but demonstrate that I really do have perfect chompers, even when lying through them.

She didn’t reply, she just waved me towards a seat.

I sat and listened to the 24-hour adult contemporary station. Across from me was one of the closet cousins – a shadowy lump of an entity with bloodshot eyes floating in a pool of darkness and big mitt hands covered in rows of teeth.

I worked hard not to draw any attention to myself, and thankfully he didn’t try and start up any conversations. I was practically snoring by the time my name was called.

A short hallway led to a small room, and before I knew it I was seated and there was a blazing light cutting into my pupils.

At that point, I knew I had to come clean.

“Listen,” I said, “my raven parked outside is getting peckish so I’ll make this quick. You hold on to what you need to pull and I’ll come around to cut you in on whatever they would’ve collected if they’d thought to hold onto their molars.”

The dentist nodded. I guess he’d been waiting for one of us to make an offer.

Tough gig, tooth fairy, but some days are better than others.

 

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.

FP407 – The Plague Wagon: a Blackhall Tale

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and seven.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Plague Wagon: a Blackhall Tale

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Download MP3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Hugh J. O’Donnell’s The City

 

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 hear the whispered tale behind the black ambulance said to haunt the backroads of Capital County.

 

The Plague Wagon: a Blackhall Tale

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

 

The trio stood before the Stunted Rooster, a public house not far north of the Capital City county line, and whispered to each other in the muted shouts of drunks stumbling home after quenching a Saturday night’s thirst.

In truth, Greene knew Cooper only because the man occasionally shoed his horses, and knew Rimbault not at all beyond his hasty self-introduction, but, as is often the case when confronted with the unexpected, the knot of men had become fast friends when brought up short on the Rooster’s veranda.

Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman and student of the occultShrugging at the merchant and blacksmith, Rimbault said, “I’ve heard of the thing – they call it the Plague Wagon. It’s said to be an ambulance of sorts, operated in service of the rich. The families on the west side of the city, their wealth knowing few bounds in regards to matters of beloved daughters and prodigal sons, apparently keep an enclave of witch doctors and wild-eyed surgeons sequestered along the coast, where the air itself also carries healing properties. This carriage is intended to ferry them across the highways and backroads with utmost speed and comfort.

“Death the leveller indeed, but they do do their damndest to save themselves.”

There was little detail to remark upon in the coal-coloured ambulance, beyond the monochromatic theme of its jet-black curtains, wheels, and woodwork, yet it left its viewers with the unpleasant notion that there was no surface upon which to safely rest their eyes.

Having apparently oriented himself along the hand drawn map between his fingers, the driver again set the vehicle to forward.

The ebon Shire horses at its head gave their audience no attention as they passed.

“Yesss,” replied Cooper, his voice slow, as if speaking were helping draw out some memory from the depths of the recent alcoholic flood. “My boy, Billings, made mention of it after returning from a season in the lumber camps. As he related the tale, I seem to recall there is a unique strain of illness, highly deadly but easily transferred.

“Eventually nodules the size of an egg raising from their arms, and likely to burst at the slightest disturbance – it is the character of the contagion that any flesh thus touched then begins to boil in a similar nature, planting the illness anew.

“The weight of these tumors upon the chest and neck is the cause of death, as they inevitably smother the sufferer.”

“I pity for the passenger who must roll through these rough roads,” said Rimbault, his eyes still following the retreating wheels.

“I pity highwayman who attempts to waylay them,” snorted Cooper.

“If you must pity someone,” said Greene, “pity the driver, whose called upon to act as a sort of nurse in the transaction. It’s said to often be a poor fellow who is ill in some way himself, or someone so destitute that his family needs the money more than the man. I’ve heard each trip is well paid, but few hired survive more than three such expeditions.”

“Oh, where did you hear that?” asked Rimbault.

“Well, in all honesty, though I have enjoyed your renditions, I was given an evening’s dissertation on the topic by Bill Gelbert the milner, who said he’d heard it from a Smith. He told the tale as we both sheltered from an unexpected storm at the Ox and Mule. The thunder was heavy and it seemed an appropriate topic to fill the time between cups.”

“Funny,” said Cooper, ”I’d swear it was a Smith from which Billings took his account as well.”

There was a pause then, as the slow-trotting carriage rounded a distant corner.

Finally, in a too-loud tone, Rimbault announced, “plenty of Smiths in the world I suppose,” then lit his pipe. He did not add his following thought, which was that anyone wandering the countryside spreading stories should have thought to give a false name early in the proceeding.

His companions made no notice of the redness in his cheeks, nor the smirk on his lips, as they likely assumed both to be the result of ardent spirits.

The trio nodded in unison before exchanging goodnights, each now eager for the comforting warmth of their beds – and so it was that Thomas and Mairi Blackhall were able to undertake excursions, in the pleasance of each other’s company, without fear of catching the eye or interest of any who might wonder at the funerary rot that tainted the woman’s smiling 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.

FP406 – The Blue Mask

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Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Blue Mask

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Pop Mockers

 

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 visitors to the shores of the Island of Corosia, and walk among the contagions that rage across it.

 

The Blue Mask

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

 

The island nation of Corosia supported two cities of size and a dozen hamlets yet unconsumed by the urban march. To its many passers-through there was a familiarity about the nation that had been carried to its shores in the suitcases of beach-bound tourists and over the satellite signals pirated by its inhabitants. It was in the cut of the military uniforms worn at checkpoints and by billboard-displayed leaders; it was in the brightly coloured t-shirts worn by the nation’s teenagers; it was in the chords and rhythms of the music leaking from open-windowed vehicles and kitchen radios.

The beauty of the spot, mixed with its location along the tradewinds, had left it a thick history of exposure to the shifting tide of inquisitive outsiders. Many gods had once swept ashore, then many prophets, then, finally, those mock deities broadcast to the heavens from studios abroad.

Yet, in spite of this familiarity, or perhaps because of it, there was also a deeply ingrained skepticism to Corosian society.

There were few who would not lend a traveller a ride along the isle’s dusty roads, but all would be sure to later joke that they’d checked afterwards that the stranger hadn’t stolen the seat.

Still, the Corosians were as upset as the rest of the world at the televised collapse of the town of Harthomas, Pennsylvania.

Every Western news network shifted its unsleeping gaze to the events in Harthomas, and legends regarding the misinformation in those transmissions would spring up almost as quickly as the arrival of commercial breaks. For forty-eight hours the world observed the quarantined population of ten thousand collapse into madness even as their government raced for a cure.

The footage of weeping faces and inexplicable undertakings was only interrupted by the occasional newsdesk rebuttal to federal suggestions to discontinue broadcasting. Whatever say in the matter the powers in question held, answered the blazer wearing anchors, they had lost it when they’d allowed the virus to escape a research laboratory just south of Pittsburgh.

So viewers watched while packs of wailing children swept through the streets of Harthomas, their arms raised in trembling need of a hug, and as a suddenly famous hard-faced bank teller led them on an extended, if eventually futile, chase. They watched as lovers held each other tightly for hours, their tears staining each other’s shoulder, until, without warning to the patrolling news drones above, they cast themselves down from rooftops and balconies. They watched as crowds of fifteen and twenty would wrap their arms about each other in solace-seeking knots, their chests heaving with their tears, until dehydration and exposure would take them, though their corpses were held in place until the weight of the decaying human web simply became too much for those few fatigued mourners who remained.

The Blue MaskThe Melancholy, as it came to be called, was thus well known to the Corosians – although, as the coverage spread into rumours that cases of infection had carried beyond the perimeter of the quarantine, the isle’s inhabitants took some comfort, in the thankful moments of their kitchen table prayers, that there was an ocean between their families and the troubles.

As the threat crept, on aircraft wings and on the decks of fishing boats, ever closer along the chain of islands that flanked their home, deception also slipped into their ears.

Their leaders began to appear before crowds and microphones to declare the illness a conspiracy, a tactic of the greed-stricken developers who had long lusted for their pristine coasts and unending sunshine. Just that week, they declared, they had turned back offers to have the men and women in their thick rubber suits arrive and lay out their needles and tents supposedly intended to heal. With great confidence the khaki-garbed rulers scoffed, pointing out that it was only upon such invasions that their neighbours had even begun to grow sick.

Truly, they said, such ministrations carried sickness, not the cure.

This version of reality gave succor to many, but there were some who doubted.

One such, a physician of some renown who had gathered knowledge from many lands before settling in the place of her birth, was known to publicly ask, “what of the terrible images they’d seen from the heart of the persecutors’ own lands?”

“It is said their black arts can tailor plagues to any need. Obviously a controlled release is simply a tactic to make them appear free of guilt as they steal what they could not buy,” came the response. “If they were willing to do such things to their own people, what mercy would they have for those they wished to unseat?”

The physician was told to hold her tongue.

Divine appeals continued. Rites were planned. Breath was held.

It was not long before any who might be considered tainted by distant infection, visitor or resident alike, were expelled or sent into hiding; be they at hand to help the impoverished at the island’s core, or simply to enjoy the sands along its edges.

Faith became central. In some quarters forgotten gods were resurrected and invoked. Offerings were left upon shop stoops and in the entranceways of homes. Smiling faces in costly suits declared a cure had arrived, but the images from but a few shores away made salvation seem no closer than the newscasters themselves.

Soon the Corosians turned to the traditions that had been handed to them from grandparent to parent.

A night of ceremonies was planned – masquerades of a sort, a culturally ingrained ritual of prayer and pleas for celestial amnesty.

Little could they have known that the infection had been carried into their midst – even as they donned garb in every shade and moved through the customs of dance and religious observance – by fisher folk who’d secreted cousins from the nearby danger, and by smugglers too destitute to give up the opportunity of providing much needed supplies to their beleaguered neighbours.

Nor did the Corosians realize that they themselves then spread the contagion through their sacramental sweat, consoling embraces, and profured handshakes.

On the soft beaches of a half-dozen villages countenances of red, yellow, and green hoped for safety, their exhortations aimed to move a power they thought greater than their own, but, as masked faces, both angelic and demonic, mingled in the shadow of the mountain that marked Corosia’s heart, the most important fact among their missing knowledge was the identity behind the soft-smirk of a sole blue mask roaming the islands eastern edge.

Years later it would be realized that it was their own daughter behind the cerulean visage – the very physician who had warned against isolation. Yet, she was twice as infectious as any other. With every flung droplet of sweat, with every passing brush of exposed flesh, she spread a sickness of her own design, her advanced craft having allowed her to engineer a curative epidemic so furious it would eventually wipe clean the plague of irrationality already incubating in the population.

For that evening, however, the mask simply grinned.

 

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.

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