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FP449 – Unlocked

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty-nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Unlocked

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Freelance Hunters!

 

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 encounter an unexpected series of visitors.

 

Unlocked

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

 

The rear door of the chugging hatchback opened with a hushed click, and Tori Garza, thirty-eight, felt her Honda shift and tilt under the mountainous stranger’s settling weight. She’d known something like this visit was coming, yet the newcomer had caught her sitting in the driveway as she waited for her two children to finish filling their pockets with electronics, gum, and beloved formed-plastic figures.

The invaders eyes’ were covered in the thick black plastic of a style that wouldn’t have been out of place on a blind man, and his brow was lost beneath the low-hung brim of his maroon flat cap.

Across the street, in front of the Mitners’ empty house – Peggy being at work and Anthony having taken their little ones out for an afternoon of overpriced pizza and ancient videogames at the local Chuck E. Cheese – stood a second intruder. Though he too wore tinted glasses, his bald head was exposed to the sun and his dark jacket a little too tight to be buttoned without making the bulge beneath his left armpit noticeable.

“If you’re here to murder me then get it over with before the kids come out, please,” said Tori, but, though a cold blade did come up to touch the side of her neck, she received an answer even more horrifying than that which she’d expected.

“No, I wasn’t hired to kill you, I was hired to ruin you,” said Mr. Backseat, and he tilted his head toward the window. The man in the black nylon jacket began to shuffle towards her front door. “My associate is a fellow of especially low moral fiber, though I suppose I shouldn’t talk out of school on the matter given the questionable nature of my own shaggy philosophy. Still, when it comes to executing tykes there’s no one as excited, or as skillful, at the job.”

“You won’t get away with this,” she replied. His brow stiffened at her tone. The fear he’d heard before placing the weapon to her neck was suddenly gone – now that the mother knew she herself was in no immediate danger, she seemed calm. Was she as cold as his client, who’d employed the pair to murder his own children?

Mr. Backseat wouldn’t have called the chill along his spine fear – he might have laughed it off as something like professional admiration if he’d thought on it at all – but his attention was on his partner’s slow progress.

His gloved hand tightened its grip on the knife’s handle nonetheless.

He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but YOU won’t get away with this. You’re going to claim two large men did it while you were forced to sit and watch, but there will be no prints, no unsightly signs of violence. No one is going to believe you. Better yet, if you resist or attempt to stop us, I get to rough you up a little. I hold a degree in applying self-inflicted injuries and a doctorate in ensuring only those witnesses I want are on hand.

“Remember, especially in light of the lack of spectators, that if you should attempt any heroics I will be forced to make it look like a murder/suicide. I think we can agree that such an outcome would be disappointing for all involved.”

As the fisherman expects a tug on his line when he knows a potential meal is nibbling at his bait, the cap-wearing man instinctively expected some physical response – a twitch, knuckles whitening on the steering wheel, perhaps a slow move to unbuckle her belt – but he received no such satisfaction.

Instead Tori simply sat and watched the front door.

The intended murderer knocked twice, ignoring the bell entirely, and there was a pause both in the car and upon the stoop as he awaited some reaction from inside.

It was Luther, five, who answered. He was small for his age, his brown eyes too big for his tiny face. He might be a heartbreaker someday, if he lived that long, but he currently reminded his mother of nothing so much as one of the characters from the saccharine mangas his older sister, Selina, obsessed over.

Those within the car could not hear the transaction between child and intruder. The man in the backseat braced his arm and tightened his legs, his reflexes working to keep the situation under control should the boy’s mother attempt to run, scream, or otherwise provide some warning to the too-friendly kindergartener.

She did not.

The killer’s lips moved into a wide grin as he offered his hello, and Luther’s response seemed short and welcoming. Reaching out a smooth-skinned hand, he wrapped his fingers around two of the visitor’s thick digits, then, with little more than a glance at his waiting mother, showed the stranger into the house.

“It’s fine if you want to cry,” said the blade-holder. “The officers will expect it one way or another, though they may think you’re faking it.”

“I’m fine,” answered Tori. Her words floated out on a breeze, as if she were instead more concerned with formulating a mental grocery list or what movie to rent to fill up her newly-single evening.

“Are you?” asked the professional, his occupational pride pushing him to press his weapon further into her flesh. A single droplet of blood drained along its stainless steel edge.

“Are YOU?” replied the woman, her eyes finally coming to focus on the black plastic across the bridge of his nose. It seemed to him in that moment as if she could see through the tint as clearly as the windshield before her.

That was when his plan began to fall apart.

It began with music – familiar, yet he couldn’t place it. Behind his sunglasses, the goon stiffened.

Every orifice of the house was forced wide. Screens were popped from their frames and doors were left swinging to the wind. Even through the Honda’s glass the thick rhythm of Casio keyboard and guitar began to overwhelm the hardened intruder.

As human forms began to splash from the home’s now gaping mouths, the ruffian’s hand, distracted, slipped away from its tight position against his victim’s skin.

Men, women, children – even a dog in a custom-crafted uniform – began to tumble onto the grass, their landings quickly turning into an ongoing frolick. Some took each other’s hands and formed rings, dancing to the thick percussion of the tune. The shorter among them ran circles in and out of such gatherings, and the tallest took to a hand waving dance that bordered on a war strut.

Each one wore a small paper sign set upon a string about their neck.

“Witness!” it said.

Still the flood continued.

Two dozen figures turned into a count of nearly a hundred, and finally the man in the black nylon jacket reappeared. He was held aloft, his arms and legs bound to one of Tori’s kitchen chairs, his sunglasses lost somewhere within the shadows of the darkened home.

Luthor led the parade that carried him onto the lawn, his arm flailing with a wooden spoon counting out the music.

A Skinner Co. ProductionThe man in the backseat was suddenly certain that he was, in fact, suffering an aneurysm and end-of-life hallucination, or that his youthful indiscretions with high-powered narcotics had finally come back to haunt him with an atomic-level flashback.

It was neither case, but his trepidation was distraction enough to allow Tori to unbuckle and slip from her seat, joining her son in his victory march.

Though she wore the plain jeans and pink hoodie she’d intended to sport at the mall, Selina was there as well, her own oversized disguise bouncing about on her capering head. Otherwise each shape – tall, small, round, or slender – wore the same outfit: A cheap black suit and a rubber mask displaying a pasty face sporting large black mutton chops.

Two weeks previous the despondent mother had wept upon her keyboard as she crafted her plea: Would The Achievers help in such a mundane, yet so threatening, situation? She had read Internet whispers that the group might, but she had not even truly believed in their existence until the first of the volunteer vigilantes had arrived: A college student of twenty-three, her mask out of sight and a sleeping bag beneath her arm.

What had been a slow moving and lonely divorce, filled with threatening late night phone calls and tears carefully hidden from her children, had then turned into an unexpected two-week sleepover. The basement floor had become a game of slumbering Tetris, the laundry room an industrial operation cheerily handled by more hands than Tori had ever housed previously, the oven a constant source of handcrafted stews and homemade breads.

Without warning the assailant still seated in the Honda recalled where he had encountered the music before: It was the extended theme to a show his father had watched religiously, Law & Order.

The sirens he heard soon after were not from the soundtrack, however, but by then the dancing mob had disappeared, leaving two duct-taped monsters, a memory stick containing Mr. Backseat’s unknowingly recorded blatherings, and a story the police would never believe.

 

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.

FP441 – Deliver Me From Evil

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Deliver Me From Evil

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Download MP3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Melting Potcast!

 

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 there’s a man outside. He’s coming up the walk. Are you ready?

 

Deliver Me From Evil

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

 

FP441 - Deliver Me From Evil

 

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.

FPSE30 – Sofia Esperon and the Bandits of the Wastes

Welcome to Flash Pulp, special episode thirty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Sofia Esperon and the Bandits of the Wastes

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Freelance Hunters!

 

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 venture out with Queen Sofia Esperon as she undertakes a perilous mission of mercy.

 

Sofia Esperon and the Bandits of the Wastes

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

 

A thousand harnessed cargo scorpions drove a straight line across the windswept desert, and, though the edges of the column were easily lost within the great sandscape’s grit-stained borders, Sofia Esperon, Queen of the Hundred Kingdoms, led them without concern from her position atop the foremost carapace.

This was not the ruler’s first venture across the Great Waste, and she faced the sun in a flowing collection of white robes that imitated the self-spun silks worn by the badlands’ mantis-people. Sharing a platform with her gently rocking wicker seat was Jondis Malhammer, the Viceroy of Miscar, a city of the southern provinces.

The humid vineyards and orange skies of Miscar were as alien to this land as the Viceroy to the unrelenting heat, and the thin-haired man was endlessly running his fingers through his dagger of a beard and complaining on the topics of dust, sun, and chafing.

To keep him from having an opportunity to speak, Sofia had taken to recounting her previous incursion through the area to her handmaid, Ida.

“Fifty years before my reign, when the Hundred Kingdoms first waged war against the mad wizard Kemrolth, the sorcerer attempted to open a portal to a hell dimension where the heart of the wastes now stands. Though the hole in the fabric of reality had been held wide only but a moment, the heat of the beyond was enough to incinerate the warlock and most everything within two-hundred leagues.

“Shant was the exception. It’s Mayor Queen, Meb, had spent her reign endlessly shoring up its walls, first with stone, then with iron, then, finally, with magicks.

“Though once a capital teeming with merchants of many lands, most of the original inhabitants, lucky to have survived, fled the city once they realized its supporting farmlands and rivers had been rendered to ash and dust. It was mostly the mantis-folk, outcast from their ancestral lands decades before but having found a warm welcome at Meb’s gates, who stayed on.

“Now it is mostly forgotten that this was not always where the green men of the dunes called home.

“A decade ago, when Mayor King Klim, third successor to Meb, sent an envoy to ask if I might provide assistance in exchange for an oath of fealty, I will admit I had little interest in this sandbox. As with any citizen of a state that warred with Kemrolth, however, the creation of the wastes are my stain to bear.

“Still, I have discovered since that it is a place full of wonders – as it would have to be, I suppose, to make it worth fighting to survive in such a place.”

Finally having detected an opportunity to inject himself, the Viceroy said, “well, they clearly aren’t doing much of a job of surviving, are they? Otherwise we wouldn’t have to be leading this relief convoy.”

“This is not a situation of their making,” replied Ida, “they found themselves at the mercy of powerful men beyond their control.”

The Queen’s brow creased, but, before she might provide her own thoughts on the matter, an enlarging speck on the horizon caught her attention.

Adjusting the eyeglass she’d had mounted onto her buck scorpion’s harnessed platform, she leaned forward. A group of a dozen mantismen had breached the skyline, their silks gleaming as brightly as the curved blades affixed to their forward pincers.

“To arms!” cried Malhammer. “Bandits approach!”

“Calm yourself, ser,” replied Sofia, her tone a cold wind in the hot sun. “There are many so-called bandit clans to be dealt with in our crossing, if you expend all your energies on these first you’ll be ragged by the time we reach Shant’s walls.”

Without shift in pace or direction, the rise and fall of their transport’s towering legs continued until the newcomers were within shouting range.

Though engulfed in the shadow of the lead beast alone, the group set itself in the column’s path and brandished its cutlery.

“We don’t want any trouble,” announced their leader, red paint smudged beneath his compound eyes, “but we’ve been long hungry.”

It was Sofia herself who replied.

“You must truly be starving to try and choke down a meal so much larger than your throat.”

The knot’s commander acknowledged the charge with but a shrug of his thin shoulders.

Turning to the Captain of the Royal Guard, Esperon laid out a series of precise commands, and the word was passed down the line. An arm of wood and rope swung wide of the third transport, and a cache of supplies, equal to those allocated to a dozen of Shant’s citizens, were lowered onto the dust.

Then, with a nod from the Queen, the caravan resumed its pace, and the bandits were soon only visible by the broad tan hunting shields they wore across their back.

Though Sofia caught a frown upon Malhammer’s face, she said nothing.

FPSE30 - Sofia Esperon and the Bandits of the WastesThe Viceroy was well distracted by a tale of his own hunting prowess when, as dusk fell across the dunes, a second sighting was made. On this occasion it was Ida’s stiff finger that brought the crook-handed strangers to their attention. At a dozen points the sands shifted, then hunters appeared from beneath the shields they’d used as a dust-covered roof to obscure their hiding holes. Their stalking spiders – no smaller than the hounds Esperon herself had preferred in the years when she’d been forced to pursue her own bear meat – took up a position of menace.

“Even after your kindness the fiends come to attack the hand the feeds,” exclaimed Jondis. “They have no respect for Her Majesty’s leniency!”

Without adjusting her position in her wicker seat, Sofia responded, “this isn’t the same group.”

There was a moment of silence as the Miscarian’s words caught in his throat, then the stripes of ocean blue paint that adorned this new cluster became clear in his view.

Red streaked the sky as the day’s light made its last goodbyes from beyond the drift-ridged horizon, and, this time without a word to the interlopers, Esperon again relayed her orders.

Within moments a second allotment of the supplies bound for Shant were measured to supply the bandits at hand and then lowered.

“You are a magistrate of greater tenderness than I,” muttered the Viceroy.

“If I wasn’t a woman of great patience you wouldn’t be here,” replied the Queen.

Heeding the edge in her voice, the Viceroy allowed darkness to fall across the advancing convoy in a hush.

In the deepest darkness, as the Queen and her party dozed, the true bandits arrived.

They made no noise, for their intention was not to communicate but to take – and so the Queen’s Captain did not bother to awaken her until dawn broke.

“We did our best to convince them otherwise, but, in the end, it was necessary to return their aggressions and cast them off bleeding or headless.”

“Hurrah! We’ve finally squashed some of these filthy bugs,” responded the Viceroy, the tale of violence and his morning tea having lent his tongue energy.

“If we’ve accomplished anything,” replied Sofia, “it is only in helping ease the raids on the previous bands we encountered, as these sort are as hard on them as they would have liked to have been on us.”

The march continued in silence until noon, when Shant came into view. Its red walls, as tall as the scorpions themselves, stood firm against the shifting terrain about it. Elephantine runes had been etched across its face, and encircled its gate, and the shadowy depths of each character held, in turn, a scrawling library of symbols.

“I see now why you felt this mission to be so critical,” the Viceroy told the Queen.

“No, you have seen nothing,” answered Sofia, “At every turn you have missed the simple fact that to help the city is to help its people, and to hurt its people is to hurt the city – and so I will give you the opportunity to learn.”

So it was that relief supplies were not all that was left behind upon Esperon’s departure, and Jondis Malhammer came to learn the truth known by those made to understand the nature of the Great Waste.

 

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.

FP439 – Spinning Yarns and Spinning Wheels

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Spinning Yarns and Spinning Wheels

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.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Melting Potcast!

 

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 visit with friends from our distant past as they move ever forward into the future.

 

Spinning Yarns and Spinning Wheels

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

 

“A thousand harnessed cargo scorpions drove a straight line across the windswept desert, and, though the edges of the column were easily lost within the great sandscape’s grit-stained borders…”

From beyond the walls a single low horn gave a lingering, mournful bleet, and Asger set aside the rough-read magazine. The half-dozen children sitting cross legged about him gave up a simultaneous “Aww!”

“- but I haven’t HEARD Sofia Esperon and the Bandits of the Wastes before!” moaned Eydis, her fingers playing with her left braid. Asger recognized it as the girl’s habit when lying.

“There hasn’t been a Queen Sofia story published in the last ten years you haven’t heard twice,” he said. “Still, if you promise to stop fibbing, and if you’ll behave for your brothers and sister while we’re out hunting, I promise I’ll finish it before bed time.”

Haldor, two years Eydis’ younger but easily as large an Esperon fan, took a broad stance.

“I’ll make sure she does!”

He’d fashioned a sword from a length of pallet wood, but a raised eyebrow from Asger kept him from drawing it on the accused.

Heeding the warning, however, Haldor continued. “Why can’t you stay with us and finish it? You used to be with us always.”

This was a trickier question than Asger was prepared to answer. How could he explain the need for adventure – for accomplishment – that had filled the void where his childhood belief in the shaman’s magicks and the clan’s whispered tales of cultists in white had once resided?

The long room rocked briefly and the group shuffling towards the door was left to adjust their footing – then the chamber again settled.

“Every story has a beginning,” he said, “and I began with you, but -”

Having lost his opportunity to finish the thought, he turned as the entry opened with a blast of wind, and a stubby gangway landed.

Though Asger offered an “off you go,” the children of the Elg Herra had danced the distance to their beds before he’d finished the sentence.

Setting a hand on the lever to pull back the rampart, Danne, the keeper of The Nursery, shouted, “The Council approaches. Good luck.”

Then the passage retracted, and the door sprung back into place.

In the quiet seconds that followed, Asger flicked off the LED dome that lit the space and, standing in the dark, attempted to shake off the tension he felt building in his calves and stomach.

The hinges creaked, and his own platform arrived.

Grabbing the rope guides in both hands, he leapt the windy distance in a thick legged imitation of the children’s traversal.

As his eyes adjusted to the much brighter council chamber, he took in its occupants: Gunna, The Earl, wrapped in her handsewn furs; Klas, useless perhaps in his ceremonial role of shaman, yet still her most trusted councillor; and Lotta, Knut, and Ivar, who made up the standard hands at every hunting party. Asger, at that awkward age in which he had one foot in the cradle while the other moved towards his new station, had no doubt he ranked the lowest of the group.

“What’s the word?” he asked, as he took his place, cross legged, at the circle’s edge.

Asger had practiced this steady tone often, yet the Earl smiled gently at his delivery.
“A charge’n’go hauler,” answered Knut, the extended haft of his chosen weapon – a sledge with a flat striking hammer on one side and a toothy claw on its other – sprawled across his lap.

He was the oldest of those who’d actually depart on the hunting expedition, and the most likely to inherit command of The Moose, affording him rare privacy in his retirement if he could outlive Fast Foot Jenny, its current occupant.

On the floor between them, the Earl prodded a map showing their position against that of their target.

It meant little to Asger, but he’d learned to stare at it gravely for a time anyhow.

“Do we know what it’s carrying?” asked Ivar.

The Earl’s brow furled against the protestations of her tautly bound hair.

“Turkeys.”

Using a nod as cover, the neophyte did his best to hide his disappointment. Stories of unexpected treasures and fame-making artifacts were what had drawn him to his risky calling, and icy fowl, though essential, were neither. Yet, even in this mundane undertaking, there was danger aplenty.

They spoke for a time, then the double doors at the rear of the room swung wide, and the hunters were left to settle upon The Moose.

Atop the black SUV’s roof, where more often might be seen lights or shining chrome, Fast Foot Jenny had mounted the broadest bull rack the nomads had ever encountered along the roadside.

Asger had been at hand the day she’d made a rare stop to tend the roadkill. To be standing on solid ground often seemed a strange experience – the lack of rumble beneath his feet would forever feel wrong – but for a moment he had known stillness in the shadow of the oak under which the great beast lay rotting.
The breeze had stirred the branches and the smell of the sun-baked grain of a nearby farmer’s field had briefly won out against the stink of the corpse. Then the current had shifted, and the roar of the flies at work sowing eggs in the putrid flesh had again touched his ears, and they’d gotten to the venerated task at hand.

As it had always been – as they hoped it would forever be – they took what they could use and buried the rest.

Now, though swept back to cut the wind, the thick antlers made for an imposing approach. His calves again tense, Asger pushed himself to be the first to leap from the platform to the vehicle’s hood, then he had scrambled inside, his hands and feet moving with vigour if not practice.

Jenny cackled as he crouched low among the magazine images she’d glued about the cabin: Sunsets and beaches in the backseat, men exceptionally qualified as breeding stock in the front.

Within seconds the remaining three had joined them, Knut taking his traditional place in the passenger seat as Lotta and Ivar joined him in the rear. Then the warm glow of the council hall – its exterior as drab and mud spattered as any of the automated eighteen-wheelers that haunted the night highways – fell away as Fast Foot Jenny earned her name.

There was little to see beyond the tinted windows but hills, trees, and road, leaving only the shadows and the road ahead to draw Asger’s focus until they overtook their target.

Lotta, however, felt it best to spend the time berating Ivar.

“I’ll have none of your damned risks this time,” she was saying, “we need turkey, not heroes…” – and somehow the familiarity of her agitation brought some calm.

Yet, as the great whale finally came into view, Asger’s stomach knotted and his palms began to sweat.

The beast and its automatic driving software paid no heed to their approach.

“You’re up on latching duty, kid,” said Knut, and he set a hand against the hinged windshield.

FP439 - Spinning Yarns and Spinning Wheels In truth, Asger had been on latching duty for the previous three excursions, but he made no argument. Someday it would be someone else’s problem, but today he accepted it as his own.

The wind was high and the reinforced hood rumbled beneath his footing, but he drew the two hooks from their mounts above the headlights and set them deep on the monster’s bumper. Then the scavenging began.

Ivar was quick to conquer the lock, and a blast of cold hit the night air as he breached the hauler’s skin.

Within sat shelf upon shelf of boxes, and Asger knew each box in turn held a dozen turkeys – the entire load could have fed the Elg Herra for months if they’d a method of keeping them, but such gluttony would only lead to trouble. It was tradition to take only what they needed in the moment – only so much as to make such losses acceptable against the cost of security of each rig in the eyes of those who sent them sailing.

Still, they were a people with needs.

“Pop it’s batteries!” Lotta demanded of Ivar, and with some help from their companions they were onto the roof and dragging Moose’s engine-attached cables towards the forecabin.

Misfortune befell their venture before the pair’s careful progress had even managed to traverse the roof.

First came a warning message from the scouts peering from behind The Nursery’s blacked-out windows.

“Two minutes till traffic,” announced Knut, as he dropped his glowing screen into one of the many pockets that lined his slate britches.

Fast Foot Jenny, leaning well out from her position behind the wheel, motioned that they should hurry with the cargo, as they were still well under their limit. That, however, was when the second mishap inserted itself.

A box went loose, falling from the lip of the truck bed and bursting open upon its landing on The Moose’s hood. Yet, as it tumbled across the passenger side and into the darkness, Asger was left with all too clear an impression of its contents.

“They’re not turkey’s, they’re – they’re heads?” he shouted.

Knut frowned.

“Boy,” he said, “get the others.”

It did not register with Asger that his elder had pulled open the packet of tinder and matches that legends and tradition demanded they carry in case they should encounter their supposed ancient enemy.

The youth had never attempted the climb to the trailer-top before, but Knut’s able shoulders pushed him high enough to make it an easy enough mount – it was remaining in place that was the real trouble. The wind howled, and the treetops flew past his vision on either side. Each handhold forward was a battle, and each inch a victory.

Adrenaline had him grinning like a madman when the shooting began.

To his right, the cabin door swung wide, carrying Lotta over the road. The same momentum carried her up and over the window, then she was approaching his position with terrifying speed.

“GO GO GO,” she was shouting, as the roaring gale carried her towards The Moose.

A second round of gunfire erupted, and a bloody Ivar fell through her flapping exit, his body disappearing beneath the rig’s wheels.

Here was the adventure he’d yearned for – but at what cost? His friend?

A white mask and hood appeared at the unbuttoned door to remind him that he might lose more.

There was a moment of recognition, his childhood doubts disappearing in the wind. Had he not always been told the Kar’Wickians would come? And if the cultists were real, what then of the shaman’s chants, and what of –

His considerations ended there, as the spider-worshiper’s raised pistol was enough to encourage him to follow Lotta’s advice.

The tension so long present in his calves pulled him to his feet, despite the bluster, and a third outbreak of gunfire chased him across the rolling platform. Once he leapt, however, it was only the sturdy nature of Fast Foot Jenny’s antler mounting that saved him from a jellied end on the hardtop.

As he adjusted his grip and fought the gentle pressure of expertly applied brakes Asger watched as the freighter’s rear door, left wide, began to spew flame and smoke, and the mix of heat and Knut’s quickly built pyre was enough to disrupt its grisly cargo and send flaming heads tumbling onto the roadway.

Then the rolling abattoir, and its white-clad guardian, left behind the four survivors and disappeared over the horizon.

Five minutes later Asger was again in the quiet warmth of the council room, relaying his report, and an hour more found him returned to the nursery.

“A thousand harnessed cargo scorpions drove a straight line across the windswept desert, and, though the edges of the great column were easily lost within the great sandscape’s grit-stained borders…”, he began, yet, that evening, it was only his own tale the children wished to hear.

 

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.

FP436 – The Glorious: Dancing Dust

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Glorious: Dancing Dust

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Gatecast!

 

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 a tale of music and murder from the halls of Valhalla.

 

The Glorious: Dancing Dust

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

 

Though there was no true end to Valhalla’s horizon, Leroy “Cutter” Jenkins had found himself at the western border of the day’s battle. The walls were cement and stripped bare by some ancient fire, and Cutter thought it likely he was hiding in a snippet of battlefront from some crumbling Eastern European warzone.

Though the rooftops were alive with snipers, these lower middle floors, offering no view and little tactical advantage, had been left to gather dust in the lingering afternoon light.

As he shuffled through the cupboards in search of any hidden discovery that might bring some novelty to his never-ending cycle of war and death, he became certain of an unfamiliar rhythm throbbing at the edge of hearing.

This was not the rolling explosion of tank fire or landing artillery, nor the staccato of a heavy machine gun pinning down one of the day’s defeated. It was not the drum and fife of the marching, and it was not the chop of helicopter blades overhead.

His ears had been so long drowned in the sounds of combat that it took his mind a full minute to comprehend the noise, and in so doing he was so surprised at its source that he spoke aloud to no one.

“I’ll be damned if that isn’t rock and roll,” he told a box of cereal whose thick-charactered label he could not read.

In seconds he’d entered the hallway with the look of a starving man stumbling towards a supermarket. There, however, he righted himself. The crack of a high powered rifle rolled through the shattered windows, and a half century of undying conflict sent his limbs into well-practiced maneuvers.

At this more cautious pace, he pushed on.

It took him ten minutes to find the door – one floor up, one apartment over. If he had been in any other position he might not have heard it, and now, as he considered the dark peep hole centered in the blank wooden face of the entry, the volume dipped noticeably.

Was the entrance booby trapped? Was the whole thing a clever ploy to lure wanderers into an improvised explosive? Perhaps pushing through would set off a chain of detonations that would slide the whole building onto its nearby companion.

Yet, with a sigh, Leroy settled on the notion that it was not his first death, and that he could not reasonably hope that it would be his last.

He knocked – though after he moved to the leftmost side of the opening.

It was Jenkins’ expectation that he would receive gunfire as a response, and, judging by the music’s sudden stoppage and the whispering that followed, it was a long moment before he could be sure it wouldn’t be the answer those inside chose. Finally, however, the entrance cracked enough to allow the barrel of an AK-47 to make an appearance in the otherwise silent hallway.

“Name’s Leroy,” he said. “Sorry to interrupt, but I noticed your music while raiding the cupboards upstairs. First song I’ve heard in years that wasn’t pushing me to march somewhere or attack something. I – in my time we had something called Saturday night Rock ‘n’ Roll, you know?”

He was running out of words to speak into the weapon’s mouth, and the suspicion that he had made a regrettable choice had begun to climb his spine, when the barrier swung wide.

There were two women inside, their hair black and their eyes brown.

“I am Leylo, and this is my wife, Feynuus,” said the nearest, the assault rifle in her hands steady and unerringly aimed at his chest. She wore a loose collection of flowing cloths whose mix of dark purples and deep blacks stood in sharp contrast to her companion’s bright yellows and scarlet reds.

They seemed intent on reading his reaction to the welcome, and it was then that Jenkins deployed perhaps the reflex he had found most essential to survival in the endless churn of Valhalla: He smiled.

Though Leylo hesitated, Feynuus was quick to return the gesture, and, before her defender might say otherwise, the woman turned and lifted a circular slab of plastic to an electronic mouth open and waiting between a pair of speakers.

While the compact disc was something slightly ahead of his time of death, the unaging marine knew Saturday Night Rock ‘n’ Roll when he heard it.

FP436 - The Glorious: Dancing DustThe waning afternoon light broke across the balcony and landed on the ugly green rug that dominated the living room. The legless couch and a pair of worn high-backed chairs had been pushed aside, to provide plenty of dance floor, and the sun seemed to luxuriate at having the full run of the space.

Leroy had known such ugly carpets in his time – had dug his socked feet into a few with the woman who would become his wife – and so it was that everything foreign felt somehow familiar.

Closing the door, Leylo lowered her weapon and moved to Feynuus’ side. Her finger danced across the volume knob, and the music dipped low enough to allow for conversation.

Cutter, however, knew that his best chance came at leading that discussion.

“None of the units I’ve been through had electricity,” he said.

“When we first arrived we spent months hunting for working batteries,” replied Feynuus. “These actually come from a slice of Kuwait an hours walk to the east.”

“It was clearly worth your efforts,’ replied Jenkins, his head bobbing to the beat, and they again exchanged smiles. “Did you know each other before your deaths? I mean, were you married before you arrived?”

“Yes,” said Leylo, but nothing more.

Decades of experience had left Leroy with the knowledge that his next question could go as badly as ending his day of living, being asked to leave, or being frowned at for being rude. It had also often been, however, the key to a understanding a new friend.

In a place where no victory mattered, no wound lasted, and no loot followed you into the great dining halls once the crows cawed, such bonds were all he had found that might last.

“I’ve heard the stories of many of the dead here, but it’s rare for a married couple to arrive together. How did it happen?”

Leylo frowned, and her knuckles found a tighter grip on her rifle, but it was Feynuus who spoke.

“I – I was married once before. Asad was a fisherman, and we carved an unhappy existence by the sea. He had little interest in me, and I had none in him, but it was what was expected and I was raised to keep my head covered and my eyes down.

“When I was but eighteen, Asad gave his life to the waves. A storm took him, and his brothers, and I was abandoned with nothing more than a hut and a hungry belly. Praise all the powers that I did not also have a child to starve at my side.

“Though I felt little love for my dead husband, there were few positions worse for a woman, in the town in which I was raised, than that of a widow. Those who were married wanted no reminder of tragedy, and those who were not had no interest in what they considered a failed and tainted bride.

“There were few who might visit, and, once the condolences ceased, fewer still who might consider me friend.

“I was left to fade away in an empty home, with an ancient CD player and a ragtag collection of discs that only served to remind me of a dead man. My days were spent in search of food, and my nights were spent in silent loneliness – that is, until my cousin, distantly departed to South Africa, sent on a small package. She’d heard of my position, and recalled my love of dance, and so had sent on some music she thought I might enjoy.

“Drums and flute and guitar all achieved something exciting of a sort I had not heard before, but I knew too that such music would not land on friendly ears in such a proper place, so it was that I listened only alone and after dark, with all doors and windows buttoned tight.”

Finally Leylo let slip a reluctant smile.

“That is how I found her,” she said, “sweating from the heat of dance and a shut up house. I had never married, and was never afraid to speak my opinion, and this was too much weighing against me to be considered a member of the community – and yet I persisted.

“By day I fished alone while laughing at the idea that it was a man’s work, and by night I sought the one who might join me in sharing my small, but earned, life.

“It was a coincidence of having grounded my boat further down the surf than normal, and having to walk through the shadows cast by her forlorn cage. I have long loved afrobeat, but thought myself the only soul in town with the ears for it. Perhaps it was the solitary hours upon the waves, knowing I would go unmourned if I were to follow the likes of Asad beneath the waves, but that leak of rhythm I heard escaping from her enclosed balloon was enough to draw me to knock on a stranger’s home.”

Feynuus giggled and set a hand on her lover’s arm.

“I was not a stranger, we had grown up on the beach together, but never, I admit, as more than acquaintances.”

“Whatever the case,” answered Leylo, her fingers settling over those of her wife, “I knocked. I knocked, and we danced, and I went home at dawn thinking I had very rarely had so much fun.

“I worked hard not to think of her shimmies and shakes while exhaustedly casting my nets the next day, but my fatigue was no resistance to the float and fluff of her bright gliding fabrics. I returned the following day, and danced until I literally asked for but a moment to sit down, and fell asleep, shabbily, in the corner.”

The fingers entwined.

“That was the first night you slept over.”

“It would not be the last. Yet – well, a love such as ours was greatly frowned upon. I spent a month resisting her lips, and it was as I departed one dawn, in search of my own bed and then to cast out my tiny craft, that she pushed the door shut as I opened it.”

“To our minds,” said Feynuus, her attention on Leroy’s face as he leaned into the dusty apartment’s warming sun, “we were married from that day on.”

Cutter only nodded. He’d heard of a thousand rituals meaning the same thing since his arrival in Valhalla, and held no rites as lesser than his own.

“I moved in then, relocating the meager inheritance of useless hunting weapons and harvest tools left me by my father,” continued Leylo, “and we were happy for a time – yet soon the complaints began. First the whispers about our music, and then the whispers about our ways, and then the stones hurled through our windows.”

Feynuus nodded. “The warmth and passion that had always been missing with Asad burst forth from my heart, and I found it truly difficult to keep hidden. Yet, even my small joys seemed a hook to their eyes.

“To their minds, worse than a widow was a happy widow, and even more contemptible than a happy widow was a woman who realized she was no widow at all.

“On a Tuesday I attempted to purchase eggs from a neighbour, and found my meal lobbed at me with much cursing. On a Thursday the same man, a childhood friend of Asad’s, caught me out in the market and took to replacing his chicken’s spawn with rocks from under foot.

“I was quick to retreat, but my eye was greatly swollen from a glancing blow. Leylo was little impressed when she returned. She worked hard to better my mood, but my feet had no strength that eve, and I spent a tearful night in her arms.

“The next morning she rose before I did, and sought out Asad’s chum to have words. I’m sure she taught him some new ones, then she headed again to sea.

“Likely her barbs sat ill with the fool all day, as, when evening fell, he knocked upon our door – and he was not alone. The crowd, no longer content to whisper, pulled me from the home they had previously coaxed me into, and dragged me through the dirt I had once shared with the corpse I could not love.

“There were speeches, and proclamations, and threats – all, I can see now, intended not as a warning or lesson to myself, but simply as a righteous intoxicant to work themselves up to what they saw as the traditional solution – the only solution – for errant women such as myself.

“With the sun setting at my back, and the dust before me dancing in reds and yellows under the churn of the mob’s feet, the first stone flew.

“Then the music began.

“It seemed strange, then, to hear it so loud. It had always been a secret shared between us, meant to be kept low and in the dark, and yet here the drums rolled forth across the yard, and, as if under the influence of the keyboard and guitar’s fury, the door peeled wide.

“There was my love, Leylo, holding her father’s otherwise useless inheritance.

“The weapon had not been fired in years, but she knew its working – and the gathered murderers shortly did as well.

“She was not the only one who had come armed, however, and within seconds the air filled with gravel and metal flying from hands and weapons on both sides. I did my best to return as much of the earth as found me, but it was no good.”

Cutter had experience enough to know that even awakening in the Halls of the Glorious could not soften the memory of a traveller’s death, and he took a moment to inspect the balcony as the pair moved into an embrace.

“A tough situation,” he said, his words bouncing from the closed door.

“Aren’t they all,” Feynuus finally answered, her weapon forgotten at her side, “but I take some small comfort in having to spend an eternity with my wife,”

“- and without a single one of those bastards in sight,” finished Leylo with a chuckle.

Outside, the eternal staccato of combat continued, but inside, sweating from exertion and warmth, the trio heard only the thrum of their shared dance until the ravens called them to feast.

 

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.

FP435 – Coffin: Wrong Tree

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-five.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Wrong Tree

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo 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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his recovering-alcoholic apprentice, must pay a call to a hairy situation in a suburban home.

 

Coffin: Wrong Tree

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

 

It was dusk as they arrived at the faux chateau surrounded by its moat of perfectly squared hedges.

“You know, it’s in these Leave it to Beaver houses that poor motherf#ckers such as ourselves get themselves murdered,” said Bunny.

“Maybe, but they offered cash and rent will soon be due,” replied Will. He gave the doorbell a second stab, but this time he left his finger on the button.

The entrance swung wide, and a tall man with a head full of tight black curls stared down at them from across the threshold.

“Yes?”

His gaze shifted from Bunny’s ragged jeans and denim coat to the Coffin’s thick leather jacket.

“We’re here about your son,” replied Will.

“I -” started the man, but he seemed to think better of it. His eyes had fallen upon a button pinned to the apprentice’s chest that read, “Make tacos, not war – unless someone tries to take your tacos.”

She was not unfamiliar with the conclusions such suburbanites might likely jump to, however.

“Yeah, yeah,” she said, “my friend looks like one of the kids from Grease fell into a bad horse habit and I look like I was rejected from a Whitesnake video twenty years ago and just couldn’t f#ckin’ let it go – but, what, did you expect a couple ###holes in velvet-robes? You figure that hobbit-fondler Gandalf is gonna tap at the door and blow you some goddamn smoke rings?

“Open up and let us in before your kid starts making the local sheep wranglers and burgermeisters nervous.”

Will winced at the delivery, but it seemed to be an alien enough reaction to convince the man that they were the mystics in question.

He stepped aside, saying, “I’m Martin.”

The front hall contained a tasteful selection of vases, filled with dried plants, and large nature photos, whose frames spoke of false age and a love of Pottery Barn.

They found the boy at a broad mahogany dining room table. His mother sat to his left, her lips tight, and, assuming no one sits that close otherwise, Bunny guessed the pushed-back chair to his right meant they’d interrupted a tense family conversation.

“Jackson,” said the father, “this is Will and Bunny. They clai- uh, they’re here to help you.”

Before the eighteen-year-old might reply, his mother extended a dry hand across the vast polished surface.

“Anita,” she said.

The coaxing kick she delivered to her son’s ankle, though well below the depths of the table’s surface, was hardly subtle, and the teen rose to repeat the round of palm grabbing.

“Thank you for coming, but I don’t-” began Jackson, until a second, firmer, kick landed.

As Martin retook his position flanking his son, Anita dug into the matter.

“We realized a month ago. I’ve been to every library and spent hours on Google, yet – well, there’s a lot of superstition and junk science, but no answers.”

Though Martin motioned towards a chair, neither the shaman nor his companion chose to sit.

“You say you realized a month ago, how long has it been going on?” Will asked Jackson.

“Apparently it’s happened six times,” replied Anita.

Bunny frowned.

Coffin raised a brow at the youth.

“Half a year? That’s quite a while to wait before seeking help?”

“So far he’s -” began Martin, and Bunny laughed.

“Stop interrupting like he’s f#cking Taylor Swift,” she said. “No wonder you had no clue until recently, kid probably didn’t want to open his mouth in case he caught some of the bullsh#t flyin’ through the air in his teeth.”

Anita and Martin sat, bolt upright, but Coffin could only shrug. He wanted to get paid, but also wanted to do it in a timely fashion.

It was Jackson who broke the silence.

“I need to show you something in my room,” he said, and, without making eye contact, or awaiting parental approval, he headed up the stairs. Anita and Martin moved to also stand, but Coffin shook his head twice and retrieved a long silver chain from his pocket. An intricate hook that looped and wound in on itself hung from its tail, and trapped upon the intricate curve was a plug of glistening meat.

FP435 - Coffin: Wrong TreeThough Will had no intention of using the arcane artifact, its off-putting appearance was enough to convince the parents to remain in place while Coffin and Bunny followed the slouching ascent.

At the top of the flight they took a left and entered a dustless room filled with evenly-hung posters.

The Coffin was formulating an attempt at a fresh start to the conversation when his eyes took in the chamber’s true nature.

Here was a poster of a fuzzy blue hedgehog hugging a rather well-muscled anthropomorphic lion, and next to it a hand-sketched image of a reclining bipedal fox.

Before either the mystic or his student could comment, the room’s owner’s voice landed as a mix of plea and anger.

“I don’t see what the problem is, I feed myself every time – I even learned to bake my own honeyed ham! – and I’ve never hurt anyone, why can’t they – why don’t you just leave me alone?”

Will’s eyes narrowed. “You’re pretty lucid under the influence? You’re sure you’ve got yourself under control?”

“Yeah.”

“Must be the Grecian strain.” replied the Coffin, his voice distant.

“Have you told them why it happened?” asked his apprentice.

“No,” answered Jackson. “They don’t want to hear it anyway. They just want the problem to go away.”

Bunny snorted. “Even if we yank your tail off the truth is you don’t need a f#ckin’ exorcist, kid, you need a family counselor.”

“You know,” said the shaman, his jacket creaking as he settled onto the nearest corner of the firmly-made bed, “folks with, uh, your sorts of interests are really the vestigial remnants of an ancient age. There was a time when the gods themselves, bunch of sex maniacs that they were, would come down in the form of goats or swans or bulls just to rut – and no one thought twice. Now they call you a furry, but back then they’d have signed you up for an obscure, but respected, holy order.

“I’ll make you a deal: Give me the name of whoever infected you with your lycanthropy and I’ll come around every full moon to ‘bring you to a safe place.’ Just don’t tell your parents that I’m dropping you off at a private club across town called The Fur Ball, and be sure to wear proper protection – oh, and that my monthly bill gets paid on time.”

 

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.

FP434 – Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Human Echoes 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 our private investigator hears the tale of Jimmy Two-Slices and his legally dubious pizza parlour.

 

Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie

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

 

It’d been a hell of a day, and Mulligan wanted nothing more than to sip his slurpee in calm silence.

Walmart Mike, occupying the passenger seat as it nosed its way through downtown Capital City, had other thoughts.

The old man moved to arrange hair he no longer had, then chuckled to himself.

“Your fake paraplegic reminds me of an old pal of mine, Jimmy Two-Slices.

“Jimmy ran a pizza place out of a little house that’d been renovated into a restaurant three owners back. The only thing that changed when he moved in was that he painted every surface, inside and out, tomato-sauce red.

“Now, I say Two-Slices ran the establishment, but it wasn’t exactly like he owned it, if you know what I mean. The deed was in the pocket of fellows higher up the chain, he was just managing.

“I was there for the grand opening, and the food was crap. Tasted like I was eating cardboard slathered in rotten pepperoni. Didn’t matter much though, because, the way the suits saw it, the less business he did the better.

“See, most of what went in and came out of the shop was just on paper. Every Wednesday was a supposed bumper crop of sales. I mean, Jimmy was lucky if he shifted a couple of pies through the door, but the situation went a long way towards covering the inexplicable tax income for quite a number of broken-nosed mouthbreathers.

“Thing is, there wasn’t an evening when I’d wander in there that Jimmy wasn’t singing along to some whiny country song and tossing dough he’d probably never sell. That’s why they called him Two-Slices, by the way: If you were stupid enough to order one, he’d always double it for you because there was so much extra lying around.

“It was quiet though, because most of the boys couldn’t stand his taste in music. I’ve never cared one way or another, so I’d go in when I needed ancient cold coffee and a moment alone. I remember being in there one time, gnawing on a wedge of sand smothered in cheese and watching the flies gather on the windowsill, when a couple lads from the far side of town tossed a brick through the front window.

“Jimmy starts giving the kids what-for, figuring they’re just a pair of a-holes from the block, but we both knew better when a bottle of Smirnoff with a smokey chaser followed.

“Professional job too. Most amateurs overfill their cocktails, which causes no more fuss than a bunch of splashed stink and maybe a small puddle of flame, but these guys knew to give it some room to breathe – as professional as French protesters.

FP434 - Mulligan Smith in Slice of the Pie“My first thought was to get out the door. The flaming gas was making its way across the tomato-coloured floor and counter like a frat boy at a bordello: Hot, heavy, and likely to burn down in seconds.

“Yet there’s Two-Slices shouting ‘Help me!’ and, the thing is, he meant it. That’s when I knew he was in trouble.”

Despite himself, Mulligan raised a brow.

“The Molotov wasn’t a big enough hint?” asked the PI.

“Nah, that’s the cost of doing business. It’s like this: I go on shift at Walley World you know I’m workin’ hard for my minimum wage, but it’s still just a job. I like the people and the paycheck, but if some guy came in with a gun I wouldn’t be getting into a wrestling match over it. If some meathead with a fist full of fire were to try and torch the place I wouldn’t be toastin’ my buns tryin’ to save the friggin’ jogging pants.

“Jimmy though, he’s got his apron off and he’s trying to smother the heat. Well, what if he succeeds? That place wasn’t worth more than the change in my pocket, but I wasn’t about to have my reputation crapped on by having it get around that I hoofed it when Two-Goddamn-Slices stayed to beat back the inferno.

“We got it under control, but there was plenty of smoke damage by the time we were done, and a couple uniforms came around to check what was what.

“‘Just a little problem with the oven,” says Jimbo, and they look from the glass on the floor to the brick and up to the scorch marks nowhere near the kitchen.

“Hell’d be serving Dairy Queen before those guys volunteered for paperwork, though, so they shrugged and took off.

“Still, those up the ladder were not pleased. Better in some eyes to have shepherded the insurance claim through the courts than to have drawn the eyes of even a couple street-walking blueboys.

“It wasn’t two weeks after that that the news came down, though they waited a few months before actually applying the torch, you know, to avoid suspicion. In the end, the near-miss actually gave them some cover, as they could pull in folks who’d swear to the oven already having issues. They even had a legit repairman come in and sign off on the thing once Jimmy was done repainting, just so they could wave his report in front of the judge.

“I wasn’t there for the roast, not my bag, but I heard about the tears Jimmy was leaking when the fire crews arrived. I remember thinking it was a shame too, because, even when he knew it was going to end, he kept on pushing his pies, and he was actually getting pretty damn good at it. He’d even started showing up early to pummel the dough, and the sauces had all started being handmade.

“Got to the point where I wouldn’t even groan when he handed me across a helping.“

The old man paused and smiled at the memory.

Mulligan, his slurpee now empty, slid up the highway’s on-ramp.

“So, are you trying to say that sometimes even when you try you can’t win?’ he asked. “I guess it’s being realistic, but maybe wait for a day when I haven’t lost an insurance fraud paycheck?”

“No, what I’m saying is you gotta consider the flip-side. There’s this idea out there that crime is all cash and ladies with questionable morals, but the truth is – and I know you know it – you don’t rob a chump of his twenty bones because you’re looking to get rich, you do it because you need a sandwich to fill your empty gut. You think those ladies with supposedly questionable morals are there because the pay is good and their dates are gentlemanly good times? No, but everyone’s gotta eat, or, worse, feed their family.

“So one fake wheelchair jockey managed to slip past a Smith: It sucks, but probably not as bad as whatever convinces a fella to spend his entire life looking over his seated shoulder so he can earn enough to cover his shitty apartment’s rent.

“Now quit your whining and I’ll buy you some dinner. I know a place. It may not be the greatest you’ve ever tasted, and the paint may make you feel like you’re trapped in a ketchup bottle, but Jimmy Jr. won’t let us leave hungry.”

 

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.

FP433 – The Sad Death of Lord Northrop Saggyface

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Sad Death of Lord Northrop Saggyface

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Human Echoes 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 tell a tale of friendship and terror, in the classic style.

 

The Sad Death of Lord Northrop Saggyface

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

 

The first time Titus Bitok noticed something was amiss, he was conducting a sweeping battle across his room’s rug and into the cliff faces of his rumpled bed. The empire’s forces had been hiding beneath the comforter all along, and the small band of rebels in their shag-floored fortress had little hope of surviving unless Johnny Strongarm could use his bit of twine to repel down the sheets and warn his friends.

That’s when Lord Northrop Saggyface entered the scene. The dog, taller than the boy despite the fact that both were the same age of five, brought a quick end to the wall of hard-backed novels that formed the resistance force’s compound’s western defenses, then the beast was into the crawlspace and out of sight.

Seconds later Ayah Bitok, Titus’ mother, burst through the door. Her hair was free of the scarf she’d left the house in, and her mouth had taken up the tight line that usually meant Dad had said something mean that she wanted to pretend hadn’t happened.

She asked, “are you okay?”

In truth he was a little annoyed at having to repair his base, but the boy commander shrugged it off. He owed Lord Saggyface a few favours, and he could see no gain in getting the mutt in trouble.

“Yep,” he replied.

He did not notice that she was sweating as she departed – nor that she took the unusual step of closing the door behind her.

The invasion resumed.

* * *

That Saturday night, Titus slipped his babysitter’s dozing gaze and crept into his bedroom.

Generally the race to see if she’d fall asleep before thinking to put him to bed resulted in his treating himself to a movie starring aliens, people with laser cannons, or car chases – all three if he was especially lucky – but this evening he’d set himself a special goal.

FP433 - The Sad Death of Lord Northrop SaggyfaceThough his mother had done away with most of the traces of his father about the house, she’d set aside a stack of ancient horror comics, noting that they were actually intended to be the child’s by way of grandfather.

“A much better man, and it is only too bad you did not have the chance to meet him before his passing. He was always eager to hold you,” she’d said.

Still, though she’d fanned the ghoulish covers of his inheritance, she’d set his estate high on her closet’s shelf, deeming them too terrifying for a youth his age.

This had been no obstacle at all once Cynthia had arrived. Dragging her to the park, to the store, to the ducks, and then home again, he knew he’d exhaust the chain-smoking woman who lived in the other half of their duplex.

He’d been patient through a half-dozen dragging snores, then, with a cat’s stealth, he’d shifted a chair and retrieved his prizes.

It was just after midnight of that evening that Lord Saggyface stepped from the cubby and stood, the bulk of his broad gray fluff projecting into the room, while his head joined Titus beneath the glow-lit sheet that hid the undertaking from any who might stumble through the door.

Titus spent some fifteen minutes softly reading aloud to the dog’s bobbing tongue, then a noise the reading boy could not make out drew Northrop’s attention to the window.

With childhood reflexes, the light was extinguished and the the exterior darkness flooded the room. Saggyface’s gentle panting became the only sound, then came the grind of a shifting pane, and a grunt from beyond.

The beast opened his throat and took to roaring, and Titus began to shout for him to be quiet while attempting to collect his stolen goods.

Cynthia, roused from her nap, burst through the entry with ragged lungs, inundating the room with light and kicking off a week’s grounding.

* * *

Titus could not help but notice the tension creeping into the quiet moments of the next seven days. When Cynthia had come around for Sunday tea, the boredom of the afternoon had been broken up by the first fight the boy had ever witnessed between the woman and his mother.

They did not speak throughout the march of days, and more than once Titus caught Ayah closing the blinds against the sound of their neighbour coughing and lighting another cigarette out on the sidewalk.

A mere fifteen minutes after his Thursday night bedtime, the screen door swung against the outer wall, and the house fell silent. Titus, taut with the boredom of his punishment and the pacing of his mother, had been already been hard-pressed to fall asleep, but now, with the child’s increasing surety that he was alone in his home, his feet began to wiggle.

He wandered into the bathroom, Lord Saggyface shuffling along behind him, and no voice raised an objection against the fact that he was out of bed.

He wandered into the kitchen, his mouth half-open and ready to deliver his excuse of needing a glass of water, but again no objections came.

Through the glass patio door that looked onto over the yellow grass of their back lawn, Titus noticed movement in the shadows.

It was his mother, and she was hoisting a shovel.

His curiousity suddenly outweighing his caution, Titus slid back the exit.

Stepping onto the turf with barefeet, he approached the short trench that had been dug alongside the rear fence.

“Mum?” he asked.

Ayah turned, clearly startled, and the boy wondered briefly if her raised brows might avalanche into anger over his violation of curfew.

Instead she seemed to take his measure, then sighed.

“My Love,” she said, “did you hear the dog bark the night Cynthia was over?”

She dropped a load of muck on her growing pile as she spoke.

“Yes,” replied Titus. He hated to rat out his friend, but he also knew he wasn’t the only witness.

The digging stopped.

“You heard Saggyface?”

“Yes, Mum, he was crazy over whatever was at the window. He was jumping and barking, that’s why I was busted with my – uh – those comics.”

Somewhere on the street a car door slammed. Neither noticed.

“You’re saying you saw Lord Northrop?”

“Yeah, I think he liked the smell of the old pages so he was sort of reading with me.”

“Did – did Cynthia mention any of this to you? Ask you to say it?”

“What? No, I just – I just heard the dog barking? I mean, it’s like the only thing he’s good at anyhow, what’s the surprise?”

A third voice joined the conversation then, and not a welcome one.

It’s tone was thick and slurred.

“Oh, I heard the barking Ayah, it’s why I left. Not tonight though, not tonight. I’m surprised you were so quick to get another mutt – figured you as more sentimental, but then, look how quickly you forgot me, eh?”

“Dad?” asked Titus, but he did not mean it as a question of identity – he knew perfectly well who the man was – he meant it more as an inquiry into why his father was holding a broad-hilted knife.

“I was trying to do you a favour by not going to the police, you heartless butcher,” said Ayah

It was the most directly the boy had ever heard his mother speak against her ex-husband.

Titus, however, had long grown sick of the old man’s habits.

“Dad,” he said, “everytime you come around, someone cries. I cry, mom cries – I’ve even seen the lady next door cry over some of the things you’ve said and done.

“I can’t let you do it anymore. Go away, or I’ll make YOU cry.”

Though it was an effort to keep his knees from knocking, Titus worked hard to take on his best Johnny Strongarm stance. He needed Dad to believe, because he really wasn’t sure how he could make good on this threat otherwise.

His father raised his knife and smiled.

“No more tears – come here, boy,” he said.

That’s when Lord Northrop Saggyface gave his final charge. He held no form on this occasion, his assault consisted of only howls and barks long reserved for the man who’d too often silenced him with a boot, but it was enough.

It was a small back yard – barely ten feet between Cynthia’s privacy fence and that belonging to the Mainas next door – and the shovel’s long handle made it easy to close the distance when their assailant turned to try and catch sight of the beast.

Ayah did not stop swinging until Titus had grabbed the dropped knife and tossed it clear of the melee.

An hour later, with all safe, it would be up to the police to find it where it fell: Atop Lord Northrop Saggyface’s already decaying corpse.

 

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.

FP432 – The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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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 join the Irregular Division – currently consisting of Ms. Atlas, cybernetically modified wonder of the American military, and Head, occasional thief and government contractor – as they take an unlikely journey across Britannia’s decaying countryside.

 

The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3

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

 

November, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Three Days Following Operation Blighty

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Milo “Head” Smith

Head: “It was some real Alice through the Looking Glass BS, let me tell you.”

[Inaudible, then the sound of a chair being adjusted]

Head: “Yeah, as if the landing wasn’t rough enough, Atlas was so quick to kill the chumps on the ground I didn’t have time to suggest that we should attempt to take a hostage.”

Wily: “You disapprove of her behaviour on the ground?”

Head: “Nah, I guess not. Who’s more excited about dying than a doomsday cultist, right? – and, to be fair, those guys seemed quite intent on shooting us.”

Wily: “The video of their setup makes it appear pretty simple?”

Head: “More firepower than you’d expect in a gun-less nation’s park, but otherwise it mostly looked like they were winter camping. We secured the site, which is to say we picked up their weapons and had a poke about. In their packs we found zip ties, a portable satellite internet connection, and enough tranquilizers to tuck in Michael Jackson.

“At that point it was obvious that we’d either interrupted a particularly kinky weekend, or they’d had some abductions in mind.

“While Jen phoned home, I used the network password you’d provided to get myself back online.”

Wily: “That’s when you had your clever little idea?”

Head: “Well, let’s say it was half ‘clever idea’ and half ‘bored habit.’ Our intel guys had found the encampment based solely on the fact that it was the only site still generating human-based internet traffic, and it was the same sort of notion that put us on the road.

“I was mentally flipping through British streams and feeds; some sites that I visit – uh, used to visit – regularly, some that I hadn’t thought of in years, and I found myself wandering by BBC Radio 1. I paused there for a moment, as they’d left a maudlin take on God Save the King running on loop.

“The weird thing was, it stopped, skipped back thirty seconds, then started again at half speed.

“That’s when I started yelling, which you can probably make out on Atlas’ call log.”

Wily: “I’ve heard it. You sound excited.”

Head: “Well, it was the solution to an unexpected puzzle. If the genocidal nutters had been intending on kidnapping someone, then they must have expected there to be survivors. This kind of made their camping location, at the center-ish of the island, make sense.

FP432 - The Irregular Division: Hostilities, Part 3 of 3“The machines, on the other hand, didn’t know or care if anyone had survived. There were still tiny European cars idling away as we passed, and I feel confident they gladly did so until their fuel ran dry. On that same note, there’s no reason at all for an organization like the BBC to have live-to-air audio chopping and dropping. Clearly someone, likely someone who had no idea what they were doing, was messing with the controls.”

Wily: “That meant a drive to the BBC buildings in London.”

Head: “Uh huh. Easy enough to commandeer a ride – like I said, some of them weren’t even fully parked when the infection took hold of their drivers, but they’d mostly been reasonable enough in their lusty passions to pull over. We ended up in a white Ford Fiesta with the steering wheel on the wrong side and an engine that sounded like it had been stolen from an RC car.

“Honestly, I started off being a bit of a smartass about it. I even used the sat internet to blast Lindsey Buckingham’s Holiday Road as we were leaving the parking lot. I knocked that business off pretty quick though.

“In a weird way it was almost as if a terrible wind had passed over the land. Even with frost on the windows, every lawn, block of sidewalk, every abandoned park seemed to hold random collections of laundry and dead bodies. Bodies knee deep in a snow drift without pants, bodies with jaws shattered from use, bodies crushed flat by the weight of those grinding on top of them.

“We must have passed thousands of the dead, but the thing I won’t be able to shake was the smile on each of their faces.

“From the empty highway we began to spot fingers of smoke on the horizon. Fires, no doubt, caused by forgotten stoves, dropped cigarettes, and a thousand other accidents waiting to happen once their tenders wandered away from the switch to chase their groin.

“I remember crossing a river and noting a hole in the thin ice down by the shore. There was this Bentley poking out, its front end submerged, but it was clear the passengers had managed to get clear. They were both there: A thin bald guy and a lady with bad teeth. Tweediest mofos you could ask for.

“Though they’d exited, they hadn’t made it back to land. The ice must have thawed and re-froze in the time of their rutting, as his corpse had been locked into the ice up to his ears, and she was stuck at her hands and knees.

“Then we were passed them, and I had some other horror to stare down. At least in that instance there merely two of them.

“We have only the virus’ intensity to thank for this thing not ending everyone. If the incubation period had been any longer we’d all be, well, fucked.

“Thing is, there were these ugly little scenes, but, especially as we cruised the streets of London, there was also much beauty. Buildings that had stood for centuries and statuary with more history than my hometown will ever care to know. I started thinking, you know, about how the history will remain, they just won’t be making any more of it.

“I started yammering to Atlas: Have you considered that you’ll never hear the accent on anything but recordings now? Maybe we’ll setup zoos for the ex-pats, or teaching schools so that actors can carry on the tradition.

“Eventually I turned the glitching BBC signal up just for the noise.

“When we finally reached Broadcasting House I was out of the car like a kid hitting Disneyland. I’d seen too much death, and the notion of finding something living struck me as especially exciting.

“What I wasn’t expecting, as we pushed open doors and shouted down hallways, was what we encountered: A couple, or an apparent couple at least, fighting.

“Our rescues may not have known each other beforehand, but they certainly bickered like they’d been married a decade.

“Martin was repeating something Annabel had just stated, though he was using a voice that sounded vaguely like a Hanna-Barbera character had taken a sharp blow to the head, when Atlas went into Atlas mode.

“Even with the medical precautions you’d shoved into our arms before takeoff, I could feel the pull of their nanotech-rewritten pheromones. Within ten feet the virus makes you think – oh aren’t they quirky and fun. Isn’t he gruff but lovable, isn’t she witty and sharp tongued. If Atlas wasn’t more machine than woman I might have been worried, but she had them on the ground and in the surrender position before you could quote the COPS theme song.

“By then you were screaming at us to come home, so we immediately stole a jetliner – and that, mon Capitaine, is how we came to find The Lovesick Twins under our roof.”

 

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.

FP423 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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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 run from a car crash and find ourselves under the watchful eye of the law.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3

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

 

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: Verbal Debrief Following Operation El Soñador

Adviser: Major Nelson Wily
Subject: Corporal Jennifer Glat, AKA Ms. Atlas

Atlas: I’d have thought the target would simply surrender once injected with a foreign substance and having his arm shattered in a wrecked vehicle, but I rarely understand the motives in this sort of incident.

We deployed to the scene after a unit involved in [redacted] detected the signature of a dangerous strain of bioengineering.

Wily: Did you actually see any of the new dogs in use?

Atlas: Yes, we had three helping us with door knocking. They’re really just smaller versions of the room-sized machines immigration uses to weed out potential medical problems in green card applicants – cancer, lung issues, inherited conditions, whatever might be a drag on the healthcare system – but they’ve managed to cram it all onto the quadruped mechanical frames that normally only hunt the stinkier narcotics.

Wily: Huh.

Atlas: Anyhow, as I was saying, the dog’s footage clearly indicated five runners, and, since we knew [redacted] and his bodyguard had nothing more than an empty needle on them, we figured the [redacted] had to have been squeezed into one of the absconders.

Head and I were sent directly from the facility in [redacted], and, as per orders, we split duties. He went aloft to coordinate the drone and helicopter patrols, and I was left to ground pound with law enforcement.

As all highway and sideroad access had been locked down at the first sign of contamination, we were 90% sure the target was still within the city limits.

Wily: Just like we had him locked down at [redacted]? Hell, just like we’ve locked down the border in general?

Atlas: [redacted]

Excerpt from the interrogation of Aurelio Medina
Conducted [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], the afternoon of the subject’s escape
Interviewer: Major Nelson Wily

Aurelio: Honestly, at first I couldn’t even believe I was able to stand up. I mean, I looked over and the trio of teen girls seemed to be all right, but the brothers were clustered around the youngest, yelling at him to get up. He wasn’t going to though – not then, not ever.

At least they got to escort his casket back when they were deported.

Anyhow, I ran. Eight blocks over I found a 7-Eleven, amazingly one with an exterior payphone, and I managed to dial my, uh, friend, whose name and address I can’t seem to remember. He drives a cab under the table. I remember sitting on the bench, clutching my arm and breathing heavily. I was probably in shock, but no one approached to ask if I was okay. There were never even news reports that I’d been spotted there, although plenty of people had wandered along to buy smokes and lottery tickets.

FP423 - The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 2 of 3It was like I was invisible.

I was a sitting duck on that bench. I kept losing consciousness. I had this dream that my mouth had disappeared, that I was helpless and alone, and it seemed like I woke and wasn’t able to scream. Maybe I did.

A second time I floated up, and I was lying in the cab, but the beating of the crash had set in. My body felt bruised and swollen, and it felt like I was expanding to fill the whole back seat. My cousin told me later that he was afraid I was going to push out the windows or break the doors.

Wily: Why didn’t you seek medical attention? Your, uh, friend didn’t want to get caught with you?

Aurelio: Ha – yeah, right. I was a border jumper who’d fled from a car crash partially caused by a US government hunting machine. I’d been injected with what I thought was a high powered drug causing me to hallucinate all sorts of weird things, and I had no money to cover whatever care I needed even if I could get it.

No, I don’t blame him for not dropping me at the hospital – I thank him.

Wily: So where did you end up?

Aurelio: Let’s just say it was a townhouse shared by a few others. I was given a mat in the basement, and I guess my cous – uh, friend, had to fight pretty hard to keep me there. His roommates had seen the news, and they weren’t excited about having a bunch of guys in riot gear pounding down the door. They simply wanted to be left alone to earn a few bucks and help their people back home. I don’t blame them either.

There were more dreams while they argued. My arms weighed a million pounds and I couldn’t lift them. My fractured bones were grinding against each other like the other half of my forearm was a snake trying to cuddle up to me..

For a night and a day and a night, I slept, then I rose hungry. So hungry.

There was a cup of water beside me, and I drank it in one long gulp. No one was around, they all had jobs to be at, so I stumbled to the fridge on the main level and pulled it open. It was a mix of stuff – fresh vegetables, takeout leftovers, random condiments – I ate it all.

It was while I was chugging down the last of the milk that I realized I was using my broken arm to lift the carton. The pain was gone, and so was the break.

The thing is, I was still exhausted – or maybe it was the big meal making me tired. Whatever the case, I refilled my water cup and went back downstairs.

Now, you have to understand, this wasn’t a fancy place, this wasn’t a McMansion in the suburbs, it was a dozen bodies living in a too-small space, but, with my belly full, my body whole, and my bed firmly in America, I went to sleep pretty satisfied.

I dreamt I was flying.

Shouting woke me a few hours later. The owners of the food I’d eaten were chewing up my friend and he was trying to keep them from heading down the stairs to kick my ass.

Still, I felt lighter. Trimmer. Limber.

Turning the corner at the top of the landing I figured I’d make some apologies, promise them that I’d pay them back as soon as I made a few bucks – and, by the way, did they know of any jobs?

Thing was, they all stopped to stare as I came into the kitchen. I was spreading my hands wide, you know, to show I was sorry and didn’t mean any harm, and I felt my shoulders brush against the walls.

September, Year One
Excerpt Source: [redacted].com/rambling/Aurelio.html

Author: Head

Title: You Will Believe a Man Can Fly

Body:

So there I was in the helicopter, but, if I’m totally honest, I wasn’t crazily into the whole thing. Sure, it was neat to be deploying clusters of drones from a whirlybird, and to mentally send those whizzing around the block, but, once I’d gotten yelled at for losing a couple toys while conducting an alleyway re-creation of the Deathstar Trench run, most of the fun was out of it.

We’ve done things I can get behind. We’ve made a difference, I think, but – well, chasing some poor bastard who really only wanted to blend in and live a not-miserable life didn’t seem like the best use of a guy with an illegal computer in his brain and a woman who can punch buildings sideways.

That isn’t to say, though, that it didn’t have its moments.

I’m sitting there, supposedly scanning social media for any personal communications or sightings that might give us a lead, but really just boredom trawling, when the chopper’s heat rig – usually used to bust grow ops with hot roof tiles – goes nuts.

It was the fever caused by the serum that gave Auerlio away.

Well, I mean, that and his giant soaring wings.

 

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.