Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sixty-eight.
Tonight we present Park Right, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Every Photo Tells…
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we present a tale of superheroism and traffic, as seen from the dash of a slightly beaten Honda Accord.
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Mort sat behind the wheel and idly finger-drummed to the Rush song whispering from the radio. He’d turn it up, but he knew Tillie would object.
Instead, he did some complaining of his own.
“I read a theory on the internet that it’s a modified combat vehicle. If I parked a modified combat vehicle in the middle of the street you can believe someone would do something about it.”
Tillie looked over from her Twitter post.
“Like what?” she asked. “Tow it? You think there’s a wrecker in this town brave enough to get that close?”
Glancing at her furious thumbs, Mort risked edging Geddy Lee up a little louder.
“The cops should get involved,” he muttered to his window. “It ain’t like he’s got a license for the thing.”
“If the cops in this city could do anything about guys like him then he wouldn’t need to be here in the first place. Besides, having him around makes me feel safe.”
Mort frowned. “What’re we even waiting for? Another bank robbery? There’s no goddamn bank on -”
His rambling was interrupted by the arrival of a dozen figures, in leather pants, who appeared from the alley running between a shop whose sign simply read “CONVENIENCE” and a bar that had yet to open for the day.
The thick-armed men, all wearing buzzard masks, surrounded the low black car that was the source of Mort’s ire.
* * *
“Listen, all I’m saying is that my cousin can get us a gun that’ll knock down a small house. Why don’t we just climb onto a building and -”
The squat scavenger was cut short by the leader of the flock.
“If your ideas were worth anything, Orlando, you’d be picking the head gear. Shut the hell up and get in line.”
The thugs moved shoulder-to-shoulder, blocking the road machine from Mort and Tillie’s view, as well as that of the three block snarl behind them.
“Orlando sort of has a point,” said Tallahassee, as he rearranged his flopping beak. “We could just wait till he gets back and -”
“Nope,” answered Daytona, one of the few birdmen who’d previously encountered their foe. “I ain’t paid enough. You want me to put on this goofy canary face? Fine, I would’ve worn a mask anyway – but you want me to fist fight some crazy sumbitch with access to an arsenal of technologies that probably violates international weapons laws? Fuck that, I’ll go back to pantyhose and liquor stores.”
The wing leader stood from his stooped position and ran a double check on his remote detonator.
His face lit green.
Lifting his arms and flapping his imagined feathers threateningly at the still-staring Mort, he told his companions, “quit talkin’ and get walkin’. Any second now our employer is going to make his bioengineered exit, and we do not want to be standing here when the chase starts.”
* * *
Tillie watched the vultures melt into the alley.
“We’ve got to tell him!” she said.
“I could leave a note?” replied Mort.
“This isn’t a ‘I dinged your bumper but had to run, here’s my number,’ kind of situation. What if he thinks it’s just a flyer?”
“Surely he’s been bombed before, I mean, he’s always parking this beast around town, he’s got to know what’s going to happen?”
Mort turned to Tillie and was disheartened to realize she was doing the eyebrow thing.
Knowing if he didn’t move first she’d likely climb up on the hood and wave the lamp jawed hero down as he came sprinting, Mort fished a yellow sticky pad from the glove box.
Pushing open his door, he said, “I’ll be right back.”
It was twenty feet to the carbon-black machine, but every step left Mort feeling as if the air was growing denser.
Fifteen feet and he wanted to puke.
Ten and he noted that his hands were shaking.
Five and he couldn’t find any spit in his mouth.
Finally he was close enough to peer unsuccessfully into the murky tint of the thick windows.
Lifting pen to paper, he wrote: BOMB BENEATH and applied it to the dim glass, then, considering the angle of approach, he wrote it again and circled to the opposite side.
His bases covered, he paused for a moment as Tillie raised her cellphone through to his Honda Accord’s dirty windshield and captured his deed for posterity. When he was sure she had it, he took five rapid steps forward.
It was a bird’s scream that stopped him. A block away, a massive condor took to the sky, its wings two planes of night against the gray sky. The eastward bound shadow passed briefly over the car, over Mort, over the snarl, and disappeared behind the skyrise horizon.
Even before Mort could again take up walking, however, a new spot formed amongst the clouds, dropped to a hundred feet, then cruised on a cushion of flame to the spot where the monstrous bird had originated.
The jet, like the car, seemed made of edges and darkness.
“Probably doesn’t even have a goddamn pilot’s license,” muttered the note dropper.
Within seconds the summoned aircraft rose and gave chase.
Mort offered a “lot of good that does traffic,” but Tillie’s attention was already elsewhere. He guessed she was probably tweeting these newest photos.
So much for his moment of triumph.
As he lifted his left foot, an engine roared to life behind him.
He’d identified the cause before he realized the consequences: Autopilot to drive it home of course. Didn’t that mean the dick could’ve moved the thing at any point? Or at least left it roaming in circles?
It was as he thought, “oh yeah, what about the bomb?” that the explosion happened.
* * *
Seconds later, the car was silent except for the fading baseline of Tom Sawyer. Still, Tille could not yet convince herself to open her eyes. The thought that she’d just somehow killed her husband weighed too heavily on her lashes, and so long as she did not look the possibility was not a reality.
She was startled, then, by the slam of a door.
“A hover jet?” said Mort, “Do you know what kind of shit I’d get from the FAA?”
Maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the fact that he’d nearly died while trying to save her hero, or maybe she’d actually come around to seeing his point of view – whatever the case, Tillie leaned in close and shut him up with a hero’s reward.
Flash Pulp is presented by https://www.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.
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