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CCR20 – The Gorilla

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The Gorilla (1939)

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Your hosts, Hugh of Way of the Buffalo, Rich the Time Traveler, Opopanax, and Jurd, have gathered this evening to consider 1939’s The Gorilla.

Haven’t seen the flick yet? Here you go!



Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and Way of the Buffalo, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

FP449 – Unlocked

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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.

FP447 – The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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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 return to Capital City where Harm Carter, father and former military man, has been contending with the homicidal paranoia inducing illness that is The Murder Plague.

 

The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2

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

 

Here’s the thing about Hitchcock’s. Even as an incredibly sick, sometimes feverish, death-dispensing maniac, you are absolutely convinced that you are the only person on this planet-sized carousel who truly has their situation under control.

You’re hiding in an attic, and you’ve got scraps of paper pinned up on every surface. You spend your days with a flashlight – red filtered, as looted from the home of the dead or fled survivalist down the road – scanning the sheets of paper you’ve pinned to the insulation and roof beams. You’re using the red filter because it’s less noticeable than a white glow, despite the fact that it’s broad daylight outside and there are no windows in your attic.

You trace and retrace the colour-coded dots and scratches you’ve drawn, with pencils stolen from an abandoned school bag, and though the mess of lines and circles has begun to blur and smudge, though the heat has you sweating like a drug mule getting ready for an intercontinental flight, though you keep chuckling to no one but yourself, you feel like the king.

No one, you convince yourself, will ever break the code you’ve used to map out your routes, caches, and traps. No one, surely, could ever come up with such a clever system without leaving a hint or trail. No one is as smart, as careful, as PREPARED, as you are.

At night the only thing you hold closer than the section of map you’ll need for that evening’s expedition is the handgun you plan on using to defend your secrets.

Jokes on you, of course, because the neighbourhood you consider your kingdom is infested with plenty of other fools who also think they’re royalty.

Sometimes the attacks are straight forward, and your survival, if you could admit it to yourself, is just luck. A gunshot rings out and you tell yourself you’ve escaped unharmed because you’re too fast to hit. A large woman with a machete and silent feet does her best Queen of Hearts imitation, and you tell yourself you’ve avoided the grave by knowing to bring a gun to a knife fight. Invaders break into your sanctuary while you are away, and you convince yourself that you’ve defeated the ambush they set by having left semi-hidden rat-poisoned food about the lower floors – and never mind that they might have waited till safely home to snack.

At some point, just before another dateless dawn, you’re almost done scratching Xs across the hand drawn chart of places you’ve cleared out for supplies, and, as you’re tugging at a garage door in search of gasoline or sharp-edged tools, you nearly get taken out by a log trap. A dozen trees, which you’ll later realized were stripped from a local schoolyard before being piled high in the quiet darkness, come rolling at you, and you damn near have your knees snapped backwards and your rib cage trampled by tumbling pines before you can leap left. Lobbing a Molotov onto the roof you wait till the attempted murderer stumbles from his haven and you end the wannabe Boy Scout with your pistol. You don’t think twice about having slain a frumpy man in a Star Wars t-shirt and thick-rimmed glasses. You don’t think twice about the pencil smudges on his fingers. You don’t think twice about the red-filtered flashlight he happens to be carrying.

You simply collect what you can use, shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown, and move on.

I – I simply collect what I can use. I simply shrug at the death of another challenger to the crown. I move on.

In the end the hardest aspect of the Murder Plague is not dealing with the corpses, traps, and scenes of violence, it’s in knowing that it was not some other carrying out these actions. I was not some passive observer staring at my hands as they locked around a stranger’s neck. It’s your fingers, your palms, your squeezing and struggling against the final jerks and snorts and twitches – but you have no control.

FP447 - The Murder Plague: Turnabout, Part 1 of 2Maybe a week and a half after nearly being rolled flat like the Pillsbury Doughboy cornered by the Swedish Chef, I was creeping along one of the zig-zag paths I used to return to my shelter when I caught sight of something unusual: A dog barking.

Oh, my paranoia about the feral packs roaming the neighbourhood was already long standing – Were they being trained and controlled by someone else? Would they rush me for my supplies? Could the plague itself affect them? – but generally we’d had an understanding familiar to elevator passengers in a more civilized time: I pretended they didn’t exist, and they pretended I didn’t either.

The thing was, this mutt, a little Yorkshire Terrier that could have used a bath and a seven course meal, was yapping and yapping and yapping at the red door across the street. Now, it was a very quiet time. The sound of gunfire was increasingly distant, probably due to a decreasing population of people to shoot at, and the car engines were rare. There were no songs wafting through the air from a distant block, there were no trash talkers playing basketball on some other street, there were no couples arguing about dinner, the kids, or the bills. Any noise could get you killed, so every noise was suspect.

Yet here was this pooch yammering his heart out.

Given how many real humans I ended in my haze, it’s still strange that I’m struck by shame when I admit that I almost killed him. I was worried about his drawing attention, and my infected mind was so survival focused that it was already formulating the argument that I could use the extra meat.

Never mind that I had six months worth of cans already stacked in the attic, and another couple years’ worth scattered in holes at all corners of my hand-sketched map.

I stepped forward and reached into my right pocket for my tanto-bladed pocket knife. I raised my boot with the intention of pinning the fur ball down beneath the thick sole while I conducted my butchery.

The red door flew open and a bloody one-person SWAT team burst through the opening. The dog sprinted away under the gate to my right and my pistol was in my grip before I even had both feet back on the ground. This wasn’t just some slovenly gun fetishist buying equipment online before the collapse, however: I knew this armour. This wasn’t some hillbilly in a gas mask, this was someone who’d been bestowed the tinted bubble helmet and face mask the military had developed to deal with improvised explosives and ravenous undead.

I got one shot off, which landed with a flat thwack and little other effect, but the mountain of black tactical gear had breached the exit with a taser at the ready. They offered a shocking response.

My fire had nudged their aim, at least, and the electrodes landed askew on my looted rambler jacket. The first jolt hit just as I was peeling the thing off, and fight lost the battle to flight: I was halfway to the corner before my assailant had even tossed down their weapon.

What followed was something like a magic trick.

In my boot wearing days I was not entirely unfamiliar with such gear. More than once I’d had to wade through unpleasant business in a similar too-hot, too-heavy, and too-constricting style of getup. Even with the extra years under my belt I should’ve easily been able to outrace that younger version of myself.

I was aiming for the little blue house at the end of the street. I knew if I could make it that far – theoretically easy-peasy, given the clunky nature of my pursuer – that I’d probably be okay.

Putting a curb-parked soccer mom minivan between myself and the newcomer, just in the off chance that they should decide on a more lethal means of dealing with the situation, I turned my head to see how big a lead I’d widened up. I had maybe a hundred feet of pavement and fifteen feet of dying lawn to cover till I was safely away, and that’s when the miracle happened.

My pursuer dropped one foot at normal speed, then the second at twice that, and was suddenly up to a Corvette’s sprint. Somehow I doubled my own pace, but it damn near wasn’t enough.

As I cleared my objective’s white picket barricade my stalker scaled the hood of the van and left a trail of divots along the roof, and as I gulped a final breath of air and turned the door handle, my hunter went directly through the fence.

I slammed the entrance behind me and hustled to the sliding patio exit at the home’s rear.

It’s likely that not knowing what was beyond the closed entrance, while chasing a homicidally infected maniac through a largely abandoned neighbourhood, was enough to give the incredibly nimble hulk a second of pause, and that’s the only reason I had time to get clear and draw my lighter.

I’d been carrying that damned sparkler for weeks – just the usual sort of kids’ cake topper – but my fingers were so slick with sweat I damn near dropped the zippo.

Then it was lit, and I could hear the door on the far side of the building being kicked open, and I tossed my tiny pyrotechnic display.

The gas oven, unlit but otherwise fully engaged, had done its work well, and the resulting explosion was enough to finish my climb over the back fence.

When I returned to a vague sort of sensibility I stood. If there was anything left of my foe it would be worth scavenging: Especially if I could manage to get the blood off of that armour.

I was too clever to rush in, however. I hunkered down, listening and waiting. What if the intruder had survived somehow? What if the explosion and subsequent fire attracted an inquisitive local? If the riot squad really was dead then whatever kit they’d been carrying wasn’t going anywhere, and it was rare that such tempting bait presented itself to help flush out my neighbours.

As dusk hit, and the house’s embers guttered in its former basements’ rec room, I crept onto the street. There seemed to be nothing but me, the crickets, and the distant barking of a triumphant mutt who’d either found an un-spilled garbage can or the fresh remains of some unfortunate Capital City citizen.

Of course, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, one of the problems with paranoia is that it’s never the things you could possible have calculated for that will get you. A man can spend his life in a Faraday cage to prevent death by cellphone radiation, but it’ll inevitably be the spouse whose sick of his lifestyle who buries him with a butcher blade in his back.

I mean, when I approached “the body” it was still sprawled out on the road pavement, where it had apparently landed on its back. It’s left leg was missing – well, missing isn’t the proper word perhaps, as a kevlar-wrapped chunk had clearly landed across the picket fence. I suspect the door must have sheared it off and tossed it in a different direction than the rest of the meat.

All that to say: The limb was thoroughly unattached, which is why, I’m sure you can see, I assumed that my victim, who had apparently been lying unmoving for at least two hours, was dead.

She let me get as far as the helmet, and then her eyes popped open.

I said “Jennifer?” and that’s when Ms. Atlas, current member of TV’s The Irregular Division and former comrade-at-arms, hit me.

 

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.

CCR17 – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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CCR17 - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Your hosts, Hugh of Way of the Buffalo, Rich the Time Traveler, Opopanax, and Jurd, have gathered this evening to consider 1920’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Haven’t seen the flick yet? Here you go!



Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and Way of the Buffalo, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

NtS009 – Star Wars: Han Solo & The Phasma Theory

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NtS009 - Star Wars: Han Solo & The Phasma Theory

Let’s talk about Star Wars for a moment.

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

FP442 – Biggest Fan

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Biggest Fan

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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 we talk of Davy Jones, John Lennon, and fanaticism.

 

Biggest Fan

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

 

FP442 - Biggest Fan

 

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

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Deliver Me From Evil

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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 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

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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

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Spinning Yarns and Spinning Wheels

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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 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

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Glorious: Dancing Dust

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

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by 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.

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