FP359 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The New Guy

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The New Guy

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Mac of BIOnighT

 

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, Joe Monk, Emperor of Space, considers the nature of change and forward time travel.

 

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The New Guy

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

 

There came a time, before his rise to Emperor, when Joe Monk’s reputation in war and justice had spread to the stars as fresh adventure in a stale universe. His passion seemed a cure to the bureaucracy of the era, and, as the last human, his voice seemed to hold the total weight of his dead world.

Stepping from the shelter of a cave adorned with well-worked pelts, the neanderthal shielded his eyes against the bright yellow glare of Sol.

Joe Monk, Emperor of Space, a Science Fiction PodcastThe hillock on which he stood had a single well trodden path leading downwards, and, at its midpoint, a barrier of wood and stone had been constructed to narrow the approach as added defense against predators.

Atop his ledge the almost-man tracked the drawing near of a small cluster of ten figures.

This was no war party – no, simply a man and woman trailed by their brood of unwashed youths.

Still, the difference was unmistakable: These were not neanderthals at all, but homo sapiens drifting in from some distant grubby hole.

The shelf of the homeowner’s brow fell to a new low and he grunted thrice.

Time slid by, and it was 54 BC.

A Roman galley, bristling with oars, was bearing down on the British coast, its drumbeat moving with sure and steady purpose even as it rose and dove amongst the waves.

The light upon its stern had drawn the eyes of a filthy faced child of twelve who’d been wandering the cliffs in search of a mislaid sheep, and the lad’s long thin legs were soon pounding towards the hut he called home.

Within moments his family and extended clan were beside him at the drop’s edge, pacing the bobbing landing.

Spitting, his taut-faced father laid a blow across the boy’s right ear and said, “gonadh inimriche.”

Time again took on an unlikely momentum, pausing in Earth year 1997 AD.

A man of sixty was sitting on a worn wooden bench that looked to have been built even before the crumbling gas station it sat in front of.

Cracking open a peanut the slouched grandfather tossed the shell amongst the dust at his feet.

From his right came the ringing bell that marked an exiting customer, and a stout figure in blue overalls emerged from the area that housed the loafer’s wife’s cash register.

Stepping back into his rusting white and red pickup, the driver offered a, “gracias,” then turned over his vehicles reluctant engine.

The truck rolled onto the highway, lingering but a moment on the horizon.

The man on the bench said, “goddamn immigrants.”

The landscape shifted a final time, now settling on Joe Monk’s increasingly renowned ship as seen through the viewscreen of a law enforcement tug. A too-round Smegmarian in a Solar System Traffic Cop uniform punched in his scan but could find no contraband on Monk’s approaching space egg.

Dropping a news printout with Joe’s face and vessel splashed across the front, the entity scratched at the pant seat of his uniform – universally hated due to its speed limiting bureaucracy – and grunted, “shhhpffdd ferfferl.”

Monk’s craft became the focus, and the length of speckled black behind it lit up with massive letters.

“Kwarvox has been Planduck’s Senator for the previous 324 years,” they said before being replaced by: “Change Happens. Get Used To It.”

A much smaller addendum floated over Joe’s uppermost engine strut. “This Message Endorsed by the Committee for the Election of Beethbo for Galactic Senate.”

The holoscreen went black.

As illumination returned to the cramped boardroom, the trio of Planduckians that made up the Committee for the Election of Beethbo for Galactic Senate smiled. It was generally very difficult to license the history of an entire people, but Joe’s lone survivor status meant that the collected cultural heritage of the human race had been bequeathed to his estate. It was their hope that Monk’s celebrity status, mixed with their own people’s past as stellar nomads, would strike a chord.

Meanwhile, across the small conference table, Joe’s companion’s mind raced. Macbeth knew it was essential to remain mindful of diplomacy while stringing together his polite mouthful of titles, false compliments, and refusals.

Before he could embark on his finely honed rejection, however, Joe’s jaw finally flapped shut.

“I’m in!” he blurted, and thus began his political career.

 

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.

True Crime Tuesday: One Pure Moment Edition

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Second Ending - Evan Hunter - Pulp Cover

Merry Festivus and happy New Year!

I got you a little something: It’s a True Crime Tuesday.

Not just any TCT, however – no, this edition only has one story, but it’s special. Andrew Frey makes it so.

The HuffPo says:

Andrew Frey, 37, apparently made a series of outbursts and then began masturbating in an Oregon restaurant, The Oregonian reports.

I wish we’d gotten more reporting on what Frey was upset about before he undertook, uh, drastic hands-on measures.

Was he claiming his salad was wilted and if someone didn’t fix it he would drop trou? Maybe he was just announcing his one man show, “The Mating Ritual of the Highland Gorilla”?

It took 15 officers to finally take him into custody and stop him pleasuring himself.

Fifteen people!? Do we have a new super villain on our hands? The Panicked Penis Puller? Dr. Wankenstein?

No, of course not. It was meth. It’s always meth.

Frey later reportedly told authorities that he took methamphetamine and couldn’t remember the obscene incident, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s office.

I sometimes feel like meth was specifically invented simply to give us a substance that would make the claims in 1930s murder-and-madness pot propaganda flicks true.

The Junk Pusher - Robert W Taylor - Pulp Cover

FPGE23 – A Visit With Sour Thistle by David “Doc Blue” Wendt

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Welcome to Flash Pulp guestisode twenty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present A Visit With Sour Thistle by David “Doc Blue” Wendt

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Mob

 

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’re lucky enough to hear the return of Doc Blue’s Holiday touch – and right on time for the appearance of an old friend, too.

Many thanks, Doc!

 

A Visit With Sour Thistle

Written by David “Doc Blue” Wendt
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

A Pulpy Christmas Entry

 

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.

FC93 – The Appendix

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FC93 - The Appendix

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 93.

Prepare yourself for: Teenage exorcists, time travel, horror flicks, and Coffin.

* * *

Huge thanks to:

* * *

* * *

* * *

FP358 – Thirst: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 2

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Thirst: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 2

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Quarter Bin

 

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, master frontiersman and student of the occult, is dogged by madness as he attempts to give breath to a dying girl.

 

Thirst: a Blackhall Tale, Part 2 of 2

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

 

Long years of dealing with the Canadian wilderness’ lurking calamities, both natural and arcane, had Blackhall’s body taut and aching. It was well into 1849, and his march through the pines and over the tall grasses had especially left the injury in his leg throbbing at a greater volume than normal.

Still, while his limbs begged for a respite, his thoughts raced.

Though the absurdly well-appointed tea room in which he rested had many points of commonality with the parlour his mother had used to receive afternoon callers, his mind could not remain within its purple-and-white wallpapered boundaries, and he damned its errant wanderings.

Here sat a father with tears in his eyes and misery wetting his brow, and yet he could think of naught but the proximity of his dead Mairi – yes, even as the final strands of the fantastic gathered in the hinterlands to disappear for eternity, all was Mari, always.

There had been feverish moments in the deep brush in which the flat breathing stone tethered by rawhide about his neck had been his only indication that his occult undertakings were anything but madness, and that his transience was anything other than a manifestation of his refusal to accept his wife’s death, and he had wondered if she was his form of hydrophobia? Was he as rabid, in his own way, as the mystic beasts whose intellects had crumbled in recent days?

Had he given up his tools for safekeeping until the appropriate time because he could no longer trust himself?

He could not remember.

Yet here was Cecil Carter – wearing Sunday finery on a dusty Wednesday and weeping into a handkerchief elegant enough to appear on any Parisian boulevard – begging for his assistance.

With effort Blackhall brought his mind back to the conversation, but his timber-roughened hands remained crassly locked about the mouth of his thin-handled China teacup.

“She does not but scream in a single and constant tone,” Carter was saying, “but it is not her voice, and her chest labours ever more, as if her very breath has, too, been supplanted. There is a thing that resides within her. I know it sounds fantastic, but what I at first thought a hallucination persists – horribly persists.

“I can not say how long Courtney will do the same.”

A merchant who’d fallen in love with the Albertan plains, Cecil was a figurehead rancher on an expanse of land run by a stout-limbed Irishman named McCabe. It had been McCabe’s entreaty, made ardently a days’ journey to the south, that had convinced Thomas to board the launch that would carry them upriver to the frontier manor house.

Blackhall coughed a very dry cough, then said, “your man provided more than enough detail, sir. Given your state of panic, and my pressing concerns, I think we’d both be best served by moving directly to your daughter’s bedside.”

Standing, Cecil arranged the tapered ends of his moustache with practiced fingers and lead the way.

Thomas spent the time crossing the large house with some small attempt at regaining the civilities of his former life.

“I have read of such a thing in German texts, but I’ve never heard mention of one so foolish as to choke its host. It is my hope that the matter will be quickly resolved, and your Courtney returned unharmed.”

Internally, however, he was again railing against his own behaviour. How long had it been since he’d dispatched a letter to his own little one, Lizzy? Little one no more, perhaps, but he was so close to Mairi – if not for these perpetual distractions.

June sunlight flooded the room whose paint was white, whose bed clothes were white, whose plushly hung draperies were white. Outside, beyond the thick rope of river that ran across the property, was a view of a distant mountain ridge. Inside, atop the frosted bed and hillock of ivory pillows, was a pale girl of ten.

Her mouth was wide, as were her eyes, and her lungs gasped at a runner’s sprint.

From the shadows behind her trembling lips came a keening as unnatural as any Thomas had ever heard. The note might be expected from an injured and frightened cat, but it had no place in a child’s maw – and never so constant nor unending.

Stepping forward Blackhall’s mind fell silent for all but the girl. Wiping aside three sweat-stained hairs clinging to her brow he peered into her tortured throat.

The room within had formerly been regal. A single throne rested against the opposite wall, and a broad hall stretched between. Well crafted tables had once sat at intervals across the stone floor, but most had been shunted aside or upturned, and many of the chairs resided in a ragged pile to the right of Thomas’ vision. No single seat seemed any longer whole.

Thomas Blackhall, Master Frontiersman and Student of the Occult - PodcastThe master of the place had not noticed his intrusion. The old king stood before an immense fireplace, his tattered crimson robes dragging in the guttered ashes. His chest was largely bare, but he still wore the ringed metal of a swordsman’s armour.

At the clearing of Thomas’ throat, he turned.

His eyes were as wide as the girl’s, as was his mouth. Even in his movement he did not cease his endless scream.

A shattered chair leg projected from his left-breast, near his shoulder, and a second stood firmly upright in his pierced belly. He had used the resultant blood to lay sloppy paint across his cheeks.

Had the pain of his condition caused the being to attempt to carve out his misery? It was impossible for Blackhall to tell: There was no reason on the imp’s lips, only a rage-filled froth.

It was but the height of the portal that prevented a successful attack when the bedlamite took up a length of charred log and made to lob it towards his onlooker.

Thomas, however, did not relish giving the madman a second attempt.

Moving too quickly to draw protests from her father, Blackhall dug deep into the snowy warmth and pulled the girl free, then set hastily for the door.

He had forgotten the heat and smell of salt that accompanied a sick child against his ribs.

Courtney wore just a white nightgown, but it’s protection was more than sufficient in the sun’s stiff glow. To her dazed mind there seemed no end to the sky’s blue.

Pulling the rawhide from his neck and placing the disc of stone on her tongue, Thomas provided simple instructions.

“Gape your mouth as if you were receiving a Christmas pudding and let the river’s fury within. When necessary close to catch your breath, but then return to your flooding.”

Carter arrived only in time to watch his offspring forced below the water’s surface.

Within sixty seconds his questions had turned to beratements, and at double that he began screaming for McCabe’s assistance in wrestling Thomas to the ground.

Despite the fury at his back, Blackhall remained locked on the girl’s face. Calmness had stilled her thrashing, and her arms had taken to helping him fight the torrent.

It was as the Irishman arrived that it became apparent that, though an honest foot beneath the stream, Courtney’s respiration was easier than at any moment in the last two weeks. From within the clear flow her renewed face cast a smile at the trio.

Thomas could not say if the imp had drowned or instinct had forced it into relocating, but her inhalation upon breaking the surface was whole and clean.

To Blackhall, Mairi seemed suddenly close – and so too did Elizabeth, his daughter.

As Cecil continued screaming about the near murder of his girl, Thomas again took up his long tread.

 

(Part 1Part 2)

 

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.

FP357 – Coffin: Thirst, Part 1 of 2

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Thirst, Part 1 of 2

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Quarter Bin

 

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, urban shaman, and Bunny, his irritated but abstaining apprentice, are asked to serve an eviction notice.

 

Coffin: Thirst, Part 1 of 2

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

 

The townhouse was center-left in a row of ten identical partners, and the short cement path leading from the sidewalk was in need of shoveling. The metal screen had protested extensively as Coffin pulled it further into the winter wind, but its howls were lost under his companion’s stream of profanity.

“So ####ing cold I could chip my toes off and use ’em to chill scotch,” she was saying, as Mercy Curry finally answered her insistent doorbell riding.

A week of sobriety had done much for Bunny’s awareness of the world around her, but little for her temper.

The home’s interior was lit only by cloud-filtered gray sunlight, and several of the windows were open to the frosty exterior. Still, Bunny’s stepping onto the black and red welcome mat adorning the front hall’s linoleum floor was like pushing her way through a wall of heat.

Coffin: An occult audiofiction podcast“The furnace is off, but the place is thickly insulated and we get some warmth from the neighbours on either side,” explained Mercy, as she led them into the kitchen. “I thought it was a good thing till I started having to cook on all four burners while the bread maker, Crock-Pot, and oven were also on – and never mind the cost. Thinking about this month’s power bill makes me want to cry – that is, cry more.”

Coffin cleared his throat and eyed a brimming saucepan of what appeared to be Campbell’s tomato soup.

“You’ve taken the boy to a doctor?” he asked.

“It was actually Doctor Coleman who recommended you,” the mother replied as she pulled a bubbling pan of cheddar-laden macaroni and cheese from the stove’s dragon-hot maw.

Coleman was a hack who operated the city’s cheapest walk-in clinic. She saw more patients in a month than a proper hospital MD would in a year, and Coffin had dealt with her twice in the past over ailments she’d been unable to explain.

She’d accepted the existence of gnomes surprisingly well.

He nodded.

As Mercy waved a green oven mitt across the cooling pasta, she added, “it says that it’ll go when it’s had its fill.”

“I used to say the same about my vodka habit,” muttered Bunny.

Will leaned against the counter and the hem of his leather jacket brushed, unnoticed, through a dune of flour.

“What you’re dealing with can be translated to ‘a house imp’ in English. It’s a floating sort of – not a possession, but an inhabitation. They’re supposed to keep moving, always snatching a little bit of food. They’re the reason you’ll have a meal every now and then that leaves you feeling hungry. Supposedly they’re especially fond of Chinese.”

To his partner, he added, “Blackhall had to deal with one that – er, let’s just hope this isn’t so bad a mess.”

* * *

Lamont’s room, on the second floor, was quiet and neat. Pushing open the door with her cooling pyrex tray, Mercy had lead the way, with Bunny and Coffin following close behind.

A muted TV in the corner was silently unspooling Godzilla, and a large Jaws poster watched over the bed in which the child lay wet cheeked and chewing.

Sweating now, Bunny gave an approving grunt to the boy’s taste in films, then turned her gaze to the youth himself.

“He looks thin for ten,” she said, “but not like cancer patient thin.”

Setting the macaroni on his dresser, Mercy handed across a soccer team photo saying, “Lamont’s in the middle. He plays goalie.”

“#### me,” replied Bunny. “Yeah, I guess you’re going to have to start moving a little quicker to stop the ball, kid.”

Before his apprentice could further insult their employer’s offspring, Coffin addressed Lamont directly.

“Swallow, then say ‘ahh’ – I want to chat with your visitor.”

Lamont nodded, his furrowed chin intent on preventing tears while strangers were about.

Leaning his head against his pillow, he widened his lips.

“Good, good,” echoed a screeching voice from within, “the Coffin is here. Is your alcoholic sidekick with you too, flatfoot?”

Will gave a half-turn, expecting his roommate to make her own reply, but Bunny held her tongue.

Misinterpreting his raised eyebrow, the imp continued. “Surprised I knew about her tippling? I get around – or at least I used to, if you know what I mean – but every goblin and grave dweller in the city says the same.

“Frankly, I’m astonished you even had time to come check on little ol’ me. As I hear it, the sky is falling around you – and, really, shouldn’t you be hitting the bricks? What you going to do here, John Law, reach in with your shiny hook and try to pull me out like one of your ghosts?

“Find a pier if you wanna go fishing, I’ll move when I’ve had my fill of Mercy’s amazing grub.”

In an only half-listening tone, Coffin replied, “it’s been a while since she’s had a drink.”

“Hey pal,” chittered the imp, “I’ve leached enough cheap whiskey from people leaving church basements to know there’s no such thing as an ex-alcoholic.”

The entity delivered the line with a tone so sugared it threatened his audience with diabetes.

Bunny snapped.

Stepping close enough to pry the boy’s teeth wide, she peered within. There, at the bottom of his red and swollen throat, was a window looking in from the upper-corner of a well-appointed study.

The tormentor appeared to be a finely dressed man of slender build, with his long black hair pulled into a tight bun and his tweed suit jacket hung upon the leftmost of the two red velvet chairs that furnished the space.

This was the extent of his veneer of civility, however.

His face, from nose to chin, was encrusted with a mat of food, some apparently half-chewed, and his waistcoat was so caked with haphazard gluttony that its original colour was indecipherable.

Gobs of browning slop had been tossed across the dead-eyed painted portraits hanging on the wood paneled walls, and the bookshelf that dominated the right side of her view was covered in an array of boiled vegetation.

Seeing her disgust, the unrelenting transient gave a used car salesman’s smirk.

“It ain’t your smart mouth that bothers me,” said Bunny. “To me, you and booze are about the same ####ing thing – just a ####-gobbling parasite.”

“No, you know what really yanks my ####ing goat, you god#### Hungry Hungry Hipster? I’m never getting back the twenty years that I barely remember. I won’t experience those people or places or moments again, and I wouldn’t recognize them if I could because I was so ####ing wasted the first time through.”

“That’s nice, though I don’t much care to hear your -” began the demon, but it was Bunny’s turn to smile.

There was no joy in her grin, and as she began to talk over him her voice gathered a train’s momentum.

“Did I ask a question at some point, you vomit chewing Easy-Bake fondler? Cause what I’m telling you is that I’ve wasted two decades on fermented ####ing fruit juices, and I’m plenty in the mood to spend the next few days screaming down this brat’s throat if it’ll do him some good.

”You think you’re ####ing hungry? I got a flood of opinions you can chew on, ya greasy ####ing #### eater. Let’s start with the god#### spiral cluster#### that is your ####ty taste in decor…”

Ten minutes later Will and Bunny had shaken hands with the joyfully-teary Currys and were back on the street. He was carrying a set of dusty golf clubs he intended to pawn, and she a new-found sense of pride.

It was impossible to say where the imp had relocated himself to, but Bunny felt confident that the ringing in his ears would act as a lingering reminder of their authority.

It wasn’t the end of their troubles, but it certainly made the next fifteen minutes of sobriety easier.

 

(Part 1Part 2)

 

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.

FP356 – Heroes

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Heroes

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Download MP3
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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 we move briefly into the future, where code monkey Arturo Proto will receive an unexpected visit from musician, and goblin king, David Bowie. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious though any resemblance to real David Bowies, living or dead, is purely intentional.

 

Heroes

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

 

Arturo Proto had owned every Bowie album well before the visit – had, in fact, spent long hours working on the MRI3 itself while listening to his idol’s output.

The piano plonks opening Life on Mars? still reminded him of the imaging problem from the last half of the second year, and the bassy grind of I’m Afraid of Americans was forever linked in his mind with the two-weeks’ worth of all-nighters that had preceded the device’s first testing.

Bowie was but one of ten celebrities to enter the neural scanner during an online publicity campaign set-up by General Electric and the Rolling Stone, but he was the only one Arturo had cared to meet. Though Proto wasn’t project lead – he was an equal member of its eight-person programming team – his manic hours and enthusiasm had earned him his choice of when he wished to be at the console during the visits.

Surrounded by a phalanx of twenty-something assistants, the ancient Ziggy Stardust had drifted into the lab behind a pair of thick sunglasses. His sleek cuffed black suit left just his thin lips and slow gait to give away his true age, but the wheeling and flocking of his adherents was tightly controlled by his sing-song whisper.

Proto had been surprised at the number of questions.

“Mr. Bowie would like to know what feature differences there are between this and the previous generation of device,” a pencil-skirted woman with a bob haircut would ask, notepad in hand – then, even as a tech would volunteer to take her aside for a full answer, a man sporting a three piece suit and an ironic moustache would inquire, “Mr. Bowie would like to confirm that there will be no interactions with the iron in tattoo ink.”

Before the afternoon was out the lab had somehow become infected with their pharaoh-like treatment. It had not helped that Proto stammered through every simple instruction, nor that he’d teared up when he’d received a pixie smile in response to his declaration that he’d spent most of his working life listening to the subject’s musical catalogue.

The pop star’s fatal car crash came nearly six months after the visit.

A half-decade, and four largely unrelated projects later, Arturo was sitting on a plain wooden stool under On an Ale Horse’s spotlight. The dive bar had gone long enough without renovations to be able to call itself retro, and the patrons, working at their domestic draughts with resolute throats, paid little notice to the string of amateurs taking to the low stage.

There was something in Proto’s delivery, however, that was different.

His voice wavered and skittered around the notes, and his guitar strumming was numb fingered at best, but there was a rhythm to his acoustic flailing that dug into the professional drunks’ ears.

He sang of afterlives, outer space, and needs that would never be met. In a haze of heat and alcohol Arturo’s songs, practiced until then only in the second guest room of his otherwise empty suburban home, blurred together, and yet each time he attempted to step down from the platform the evening’s aspirants would encourage him to return in their place.

It was the first night of his new identity. Like Stardust becoming Alladin Sane becoming The Thin White Duke, Proto used every success that followed to bury the corporate burnout he’d become. Now he was simply Prototype. Sold out bars became sold out local festivals, and online sales soon meant he would never again have to worry about project cancellations, office politics, or performance assessments.

Two months later he introduced the song Franciscan Park, and he was no longer just a sensation on the Capital City scene.

The meeting took place in a downtown lawyer’s office. Entering had required braving concentric rings of administration people, but they were all too eager to push Arturo towards the topmost floor. They struck him as aware of his coming, which was worrying because he had but the vaguest idea of why he had been invited to the expanse of leather and wood.

After being ushered through a final oaken door, however, Proto briefly stopped breathing. The man waiting behind the desk was not the thin-faced elf of Bowie’s youth, nor the knowing ancient who’d shuffled into the lab. This was a composite of the many men who’d once been Davey Jones – a sort of Bowie Prime.

“I… I thought you were dead?” stammered Arturo, his arms unthinkingly moving to cover his all-white wardrobe as if a child caught parading in his father’s clothes.

A Skinner Co. Podcast“I am not living,” said the pale android in the velvet Victorian waistcoat, “I am an artificial avatar known as RoBowie. I had myself built to stand as guardian to my estate – I didn’t relish the idea of being sold into a Coca Cola commercial. I’ll take my immortality where I can get it.”

Arturo frowned, “if you’re not Bowie, then why do you keep referring to him as yourself?”

“I thought it would be funny.”

The room settled to silence, during which Proto unabashedly gazed at the machine’s subtle seams, then the robot’s eyelids clicked twice.

“Do you know why we’re here?” it asked.

“I’m hoping it’s because you like Franciscan Park,” answered Arturo, but he could no longer maintain contact with his interrogator’s lens-glass gaze.

“Well, in a sense – but the root of the thing is really your habit of stealing office supplies, you naughty boy. Worse, the code package you stole wasn’t even complete.

“The software you pinched was crude compared to the version that runs my operating system, and its limited programming only allowed for finite musical combinations. Other than the name, which you clearly changed, the song you tried to claim by retitling Franciscan Park is an identical match for catalogued composition #544694, The Unfading Lament.

“We were surprised when the tune, poorly transcribed by one of your fans, turned up in a lyrics database.

“The thing is, the rhythm structure had fingerprints all over it.

“Now, when you walked away with a backup of the last version of the artificial intelligence simulation project you couldn’t have expected anyone to know you’d hook it into an equally stolen copy of your MRI3 work, but what you weren’t aware of is that General Electric had sold the exact same idea to a number of high profile investors a decade before either undertaking had gone into production. Development actually escalated after its supposed cancellation and your departure, but in a much more classified facility.

“Perhaps with good reason though – right, Sticky Fingers?”

With the legal weight of an immortal pop star and an international corporation hovering on his shoulders, Arturo deeply missed the simplicity of a life of debugging.

His mind flailed in an attempt to find an escape.

“I promise I’ll wipe the setup and shutdown my servers,” he said, “it was nothing, a few songs -”

“Nothing, nothing tralalala!” answered the suddenly standing machine, “You stole my brain, Arturo – my brain! How many simulated mes are virtually running around in boxes in your basement?

“Don’t bother trying to remember, the SWAT team will be able to answer me in less than ten minutes.

“Think of the nauseating imagery – thousands of enslaved Bowies squirming endlessly in the darkness of digital space – think of the global headlines.

“I was not a spiteful man, however, and I cannot deny that some of my own best ideas started as other people’s. We’ve decided not to run your name through the mud by suing over Franciscan Park.”

Proto’s thoughts staggered to keep up, and with a thick tongue he asked, “so I’m not going to jail? But you want me to keep quiet? I can do that, I promise.”

“No, no,” replied RoBowie, “we already have press conferences booked for you. Taking responsibility in front of the media will be your punishment, but think of Franciscan Park’s notoriety: A little controversy never hurts sales, I assure you.”

With only a hint of a whir, the avatar’s latex cheeks moved into a Cheshire grin, and glee slunk into its tone.

“What a fantastic platform from which to announce my comeback.”

 

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.

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.

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