Category Archives: Chiller

FP437 – Hurdles

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Hurdles

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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, as the change of seasons brings the classic tales to mind, we hear of the current and future inhabitants of a house with a tragic past.

 

Hurdles

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

 

Rosalee Holt had been carrying the weight of her burden for three months, and if she didn’t offload it soon she’d be an endless joke around the office – as if she wasn’t already.

Giving her make up a final check in her BMW’s rear-view mirror, she sighed and pushed wide the car door.

Her client awaited her on the curb.

“Hi Seth,” she said, “ready to see your dream home?”

Seth Prince tugged at the rolled sleeve of his button-down and replied, “oh, I’ve been ready to see it for a long time, it’s paying for it that I’ve been worried about.”

They turned towards the house as they spoke. The third floor was dominated by a parapet, the middle by a series of round windows, and the ground floor a massive, peeling, white porch.

“I hope you convinced the seller to knock off a few bucks to cover re-painting,” said Seth.

“If this place was any cheaper they’d be paying you to take it,” replied Rosalee. She was all too aware that the dry chuckle that followed rang hollow, but, to cover her concern, she adjusted her blazer and stepped onto the cobblestone driveway.

“Originally built in 1920, this is a carry over in the Victorian style…” she began, and Prince was left to chase her words through the entrance.

FP437 - HurdlesThe tour about the lower floor – parlour, front hall, kitchen, dining room, and an ornate, if small, bathroom – went smoothly. It always did.

As they mounted the stairs, Prince filled the air with small talk regarding his mother.

“She hates clutter. Has ever since the accident. I was only fourteen at the time, but after Dad died, and she was injured, she refused to have anyone over anymore. I guess I get a special pass because I’m her son, but she’s the sort who’d rather invite you out for dinner, and pay the bill, than have you come over and seeing smudges on the plates or a cobweb in the corn-”

Upon the topmost step sat a child, of perhaps five, wearing only a sagging pair of jockey shorts. Though his edges seemed indistinct, and it was hard to focus clearly upon his details, it was obvious that his lungs hitched as he sobbed, and his ribs rippled with his angst.

Yet his wailing made no sound.

Standing but an arm’s length away when the child had come into view, the pair turned to each other. Rosalee’s eyes were wide, though Seth noted she seemed more concerned about his reaction than the gaunt newcomer. He shrugged.

The child seemed to find much sport in this, as his mouth stretched into a smile full of broken teeth as he sprang to his feet. He clapped, and again his display was without noise – then he scurried away at top speed, appearing to giggle as he disappeared through the nearest of the hall’s doorways.

There were five such entrances breaking up the passage’s floral wallpaper, and at the far end, opposite the landing, a second set of stairs led higher still.

Holt pushed forward.

“This is a library, I’m not sure how much use it is to your mother though,” she said, her arm giving a grand sweep. She’d intended to add a flourish in revealing the impressive collection of antique shelving and the sturdy mahogany desk that dominated the center of the chamber, but instead she was left feeling as if a magician’s apprentice demonstrating that the boy had disappeared.

“Actually,” replied Prince, “Mom loves reading and has quite a collection. She has been filling rickety shelves for years, in fact, which is why I was excited to see these photos in the online listing.”

Rosalee attempted to pull on a smile at the response, but instead settled for taking her own turn at shrugging.

They moved on.

“This could be a TV room, though you’d need to have service installed. All of the moldings are original to the house’s construction and -”

A parade trailed from the empty room across the hall. Seven forms, no taller than the boy who’d been upon the stairs, came into view, their faces indistinct but for their flashing jaws. In utter silence they formed a circle about their visitors, and their mouths began to work at a soundless tune.

The ring of held hands began to shift left to right, and the scene played out for a full minute – then the children collapsed in a heap, their mouths bobbing with hushed laughter.

Closing her eyes, and taking in a deep breath, Rosalee stepped over the mute cacklers and continued the tour.

The third floor was dominated by the parapet and a space that was really nothing more than an attic converted into a bedroom at some distant point in the house’s apparently horrific past.

A single window opened onto the steepled space, and the dying light of the day stretched across the dust that had settled on the slat floor.

Though the tour had achieved its final room, Holt asked that her companion wait. Within moments a new sort of procession formed. Though their eyes and mouths held no solid form, Seth recognized the dancing children as they approached, each shuffling through the door and collapsing upon their knees and bowed backs as they passed into the low-ceilinged chamber.

Finally, as their death throes played out about her feet, the real estate woman finished her pitch.

Her eyes were heavy as she gazed upon the fallen forms.

“I have tried to sell this house a dozen times. Most don’t believe what they’re seeing, but none have ever given me a callback or even asked to return to record this place’s shamblings. I did try to get a TV crew in here once, but the kids – I think they have some sort of understanding of what’s going on. They’ve never hurt anyone, they’ve never made a sound – just as I told you – but… well, you’ve seen it now. You understand where I’m coming from.”

“Yeah, but do you – do you know where THEY come from?” asked Prince.

“This used to be an orphanage, way back in the unregulated glory days. The woman who ran it took off and told the kids she’d be back in three days – told them to feed themselves from the pantry and not let any police see them or they’d be broken up and taken to the clink.

“At least, that’s what I read. The news reports from the time figure they made the mistake of mixing some potent rat poison into a stew of leather shoes and half-rotten carrot tops they were trying to make.”

Some of the dead upon the planks began to tremble, but it was difficult for either of the living to discern if they were again playing out their dying moments, or if the mention of their sad fate had set them to weeping.

“Well,” answered Seth, “my Mom, who would not believe you about these ghosts if you told her thrice, raised me as a single mother. She was there every night at the kitchen table, doing her damndest to help me – be it with my grade five geometry homework or with my bar exam last year.

“The wreck may have blinded her, but, now that her efforts – our efforts – are starting to show results, at least it means I’ll be able to pay her back a little.”

 

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.

FP428 – Extremes

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Extremes

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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 hear a tale of gun play and international terrorism as it plays out across the acreage of a small Midwestern farm.

 

Extremes

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

 

Marina Hedges sat at her simple wood table, her fingernails unpainted and her hair pulled into a tight bun.

In the fields beyond the farmhouse, Felix and Oscar were barking.

Though she suspected it was nothing more than a fox – though the kettle was on the cusp of whistling and her tea in near need of tending – she stood.

From his place upon the kitchen wall, Howard, in his Marine uniform, seemed to watch her as she shuffled towards the bedroom they would again share once he’d returned from deployment.

The kettle whined. The dogs howled.

* * *

Now crouched just inside the fence, the trio began their planned slow approach, but they had not expected the persistence of the barnyard mutts, nor the difficulty of dealing with such beasts within the confines of dense wheat.

FP428 - ExtremesA pair of shark-like ripples moved through the tall grass, their zig-zag approach growing ever closer while never revealing enough riled fur to attempt a shot.

Their plan had seemed a reasonable thing when discussed across steaming cups of tea in their shared apartment. The command had been simple: Using social networks, find the husbands and wives of those in uniform, then make those fighting on distant shores understand the death of family in the personal way that each of the trio understood it.

They had laughed and joked as they’d flipped through the photos, constructing ridiculous histories for each potential victim. It’d been easy: They’d been nothing but faces on a screen.

In the end, the canines nearly overran them. It was their leader – dressed from head to toe in black and armed with the only automatic weapon between them – who opened fire and brought the hounds low.

The spurt of thunderclaps from his weapon, however, was the end of their attempt at surprise.

* * *

Marina had trained the dogs herself.

Psychological concerns had kept her from service, but there was no doubt that her own mother’s death in combat had fueled some of her interest in Howard’s accomplishments, and her several youthful attempts at sneaking past the recruiters.

She’d already had the AR-15 in her hands before the shooting had begun, and, by Oscar’s final whimpered complaint, she was positioned in the shadows of her front porch, her body and weapon nearly invisible behind the long bench on which she spent her evenings reading.

Across the driveway three men broke from the shelter of the field, and she could see their eyes were anxiously large, which made them seem somehow tiny against the sea of wheat.

She did not fire, but she did think of Oscar and Felix.

The intruders stepped forward, un-noticing of their observer as they exchanged forceful whispers and blur-fingered hand signs.

She did not fire, but her mind did land briefly on her mother.

Throwing down his pistol, the leftmost approached the tallest of the bunch, the one dressed all in black, and seemed to argue turning back.

Sure now that a few missed rounds wouldn’t give them opportunity to withdraw into the depths of the grain, Marina settled into a slow exhale and fired – and fired, and fired.

In the end the invaders didn’t get off a shot. The only sound they made, at least that she could hear, was the call of the man who’d suggested retreat. He’d shouted “Aariz” twice before bleeding out, but she’d had no way to know it as the name of his uncle, who was long dead from a misplaced drone rocket that had detonated in his apartment’s kitchen.

For the next five years not a sign-up would pass through a recruiter without having heard or told the tale of Marina Hedges’ defense, but it would take only a week for the news to filter back to the trio’s hometown, where, upon hearing the story, each man’s son swore revenge.

 

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.

FP426 – Balance

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Balance

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

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Casebook of Esho St. Claire!

 

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

Tonight we find ourselves trapped on a Capital City bus with an apparent madman.

 

Balance

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

 

“Fare?” asked the driver, his eyes bored but his lips taut at having had to repeat himself for a third time.

Clay Lyons, locked in internal conversation, barely noticed, though his hand continued to shuffle around inside his jacket as if in search of change.

Coming to an answer, he turned and took in his fellow passengers.

The bus was largely empty. On the left side of the aisle a fatigue-jacketed man of fifty, his knit cap pulled low, slept his way through Capital City’s most remote stops. To the right, a sixteen-year-old boy watched Clay, his gaze appearing to take the newcomer’s measure. Beside the teen sat a woman whose graying hair seemed to have arrived too soon for her thirty-something face. She was occupied with the sidewalk beyond her window.

“Listen: Pay up or step off,” said the driver.

With a sigh, Clay reminded himself that it wasn’t his fault. He’d been driven mad by the lawyers and the system weighing against him and damned Lorraine. She’d always driven him nuts – wasn’t that obviously why he’d hit her so often?

It was her fault. It was the system’s fault. It was everyone’s fault.

Producing one of the six-inch knives he’d bought online, Lyons smoothly swung out the blade with a flick of his practiced thumb.

As the tension of his life drove the weapon into the wheelman’s throat for the fifth and sixth time, Clay decided he was truly crazy – that he’d been made crazy his responsibilities, and by his ex-wife.

* * *

“Fuuuuuuuuu-” began Quinton Labadie, but his mother’s proximity shut his mouth. Her wrath wasn’t worth raising, even in the face of cold blooded homicide.

The teen had lost count of the killer’s thrusts, and a red mist now hung across the windshield and over the murderer’s white shirt and black tie.

FP426 - BalaceStanding, the youth tugged at Amoya Labadie’s arm until she relented and joined him on the runway towards the rear exit. That’s when the man in the khaki coat snored.

It was enough to snap the executioner from his rage.

“Am I boring you over here!?” screamed Lyons.

Raising his head in confusion, the slumberer took in the scene.

“He’s got a knife!” shouted Quinton, but the warning was too late even as it passed across his lips.

Stumbling over his still-sleeping feet, the dreamer had attempted to leave his seat, but was overtaken by the crimson form of the knifeman.

Staring up from his leaking handiwork, Clay pulled on a cruel smile.

“Scared?” he asked.

“It’s not you I’m worried about,” answered Quinton, but it was too late. His mother had taken notice of the world again. She drew the large yellow purse close to her chest, her brows low with suspicion.

“You’ll be hurt,” she said, setting a hand on her son’s shoulder, “he’s got shadow eyes.”

* * *

Usually the shadows simply lurked beyond the windows, but sometimes they got inside folks, and you could only tell by the darkness in their eyes. That’s when they were most dangerous, because they could jump from gaze to gaze.

Amoya had been at war for ten thousand days. She knew because she’d written each of them out, as roman numerals, in her journals.

She’d first seen the glooms when she’d entered puberty. She’d long harboured suspicions, reinforced at every sleep over and birthday party, that her existence was somehow aside from those of her friends. She’d worried that they could tell she was different, and she’d worked hard to hide those differences.

Decades later, her son was the only one with a hint of her true vision. Most would have said she was just a quiet woman with a large yellow bag always at her side. Yet the war continued.

The shades were everywhere, taunting her through the lips of news anchors and in the sneering refusals of the insurance companies. The lesson that she was alone had come young – but she was a fighter. She had kept her secrets, knowing they’d take Quinton away if she didn’t, and she had waited.

Now they had come, as she’d always known they would.

They had come, but she was ready.

Clay approached with the heavy tread of an angry man – a betrayed man – but she thrust her son aside with the strength of true madness: Of a lifetime’s certainty that the world was aligned against her, not just in a moment of rage, but at every second, with every breath and every push up and every mile ran.

He raised the knife, and she saw the shadows in his eyes.

He raised the knife, and she knew there was only one way to keep the gloom from entering her own being.

The banana-coloured purse dropped away, revealing the portable nail gun that had been her constant companion for over a decade.

In the end, no amount of surgery would save Clay Lyons’ punctured vision, but Amoya’s victory would be enough to rally the support she and her son truly needed.

 

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.

FP425 – The Memory Eaters

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Memory Eaters

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 Casebook of Esho St. Claire!

 

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

Tonight, we find ourselves not quite alone with our memories in a quiet Capital City apartment.

 

The Memory Eaters

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

 

Jimmie Everett stood on his living room’s cold hardwood floor, his cheeks damp and his eyes wide.

He’d thought his new home empty, but a rustling among the still-unpacked boxes had been enough to draw him from his bed and along the short hallway. The notion had entered his mind that it was Cassie; that she’d managed to stumble through the lobby’s locked door and had somehow circumvented the deadbolt and chain that held his own front entrance shut tight.

It was not Cassie.

Instead, he’d discovered, rummaging through the cardboard caskets that held his former life, a trio of two-foot-high beasts.

Their bodies were gray, round, and hung with fleshy rolls that reminded Everett of his Aunt Beth’s ancient hairless cat. The invaders, however, stood upon six legs, and a pair of knobby arms hovered over pouched bellies. Their eyes were the size of fists, but it was their mouths – lipless and revealing a jagged row of teeth as long as butter knives – that held Jimmie’s attention.

Two of the intruders were peeling the packing tape that held his memories at bay, while the third left a thick layer of slobber on its barbed fangs as its elastic tongue toured its jaws with anticipation.

“The hell?” asked Jimmie. For a brief second his brain slipped from one impossibility to another, and he assumed he was, in actuality, asleep.

The knot of creatures turned, their tiny clawed hands clapping with enthusiasm.

“Hello!” croaked the slobberer.

There was a pause then, as the awake man let the chill beneath his feet and the lingering smell of microwaved popcorn convince him that this was, in fact, reality.

As they watched him process, the trespassers giggled throatily to each other.

Finally, deciding he’d survived too much to allow three still-possibly-hallucinated imps with mange to set him back now, Jimmie straightened his spine and asked, “who are you?”

“Damn, I was hoping to play Chase Him,” said the monstrosity closest to the boxes, and its fingers returned to stripping the restraining bands from Everett’s previous existence.

The apparent leader bobbed on its triple-pair of legs, the bumps of its spine rolling from back to front, and it deposited a sizable hairball on the unswept parquet before saying, “we’re Memory Eaters, and we don’t particularly care what you think about that.”

“Think about what?” asked Jimmie.

“The fact that we’ve arrived to devour your history.”

“Huh?”

The second of the beasts, caught between its talkative companion and the impending pillaging of picture frames, albums, and dusty knick knacks, turned to pick up the thread.

“It’s pretty clear from the name: We eat your past. Can’t quite summon the face of your dead father? We probably ate it. Difficulty bringing to mind the sound of your grandmother’s voice? We ate that too.”

Jimmie blinked, his brow furrowing. “You think Gran’s voice is in that box somewhere?”

Again the chorus of chuckles rose to his ears.

“No, but it gets us closer to a full belly when we can chew on your family photos and beloved teddy bears,” replied the leader. “Frankly, you’ve probably heard of us before. Most have, as a schoolyard urban legend or bedtime fairy tale, but simply don’t remember because we later crossed paths.”

FP425Watching the last of the tape pull away, the second said, “whatever yesterdays you’ve tried to pack away in there must be pretty ripe, people generally only notice us if we’re pulling at the most solidly planted memories.”

Jimmie’s chest tightened, and his fingers clenched.

“Great, now he gets to play Chase Us!” said the unpacker, its voice high with excitement.

“Look pal,” interjected the leader, “normally I’m all for the fun and games, but we’re on a tight schedule tonight. There’s three of us and one of you. I promise you this: We always win in the end. We may be in a rush, but, really, time is always on our side.”

It was then that Everett recollected that the Millennium Falcon playset his father had given him when he was twelve was not amongst the living room collection, but was instead tucked in a suitcase at the back of his bedroom closet.

Standing there, amidst the assault on his largely barren living room, he thought suddenly of the leather couch he and Cassie had selected together, their first real piece of jointly owned furniture. He thought of how they’d sprawled on it, her head in his lap while she whispered every promise he’d ever wanted to hear.

He thought of later finding her there sleeping, his shoulders aching from the stress of work, and the stink of spilled booze wafting through the air.

He thought of the arguments that followed; of missing money; of broken promises.

Turning away even as the hanging rolls of the Memory Eaters’ bellies began to fill out with the broken China and cracked-framed wedding pictures that were his half of the divorce, he said, “some memories are easier to give up than others. Watch your gums on any stray whiskey bottles – and keep it down, I’ve got a job interview in the morning.”

Once he reached his room he shut the door behind him, and when he awoke he could no longer recall what had so troubled his sleep the night before.

 

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.

FP417 – Doll

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and seventeen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Doll

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Green Light, Red Light

 

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 modern terror and psychedelic incidents, unfolding, before the astonished eyes of a mother and child, on a Capital City backstreet.

 

Doll

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

 

They were sitting in front of Fas’ Gas & Lotto, and Mom was thinking.

Cassandra knew this because Mom, as she often did, had said, “Mom’s thinking, Doll,” when she’d told her she had to pee.

The eight-year-old was aware she shouldn’t press the issue. Eventually her mother would either remember the question, or the girl would simply wait until a safer stop. She’d mapped out all the best places along the twenty block sprawl that was their nightly stroll.

It was tempting to slip away and ask Phil, the hard faced counter jockey who watched the 24-hour gas station, but Phil had a tendency to be mean to Mom, and, besides, her mother would grump if she were done thinking and didn’t have Cass at hand to soothe her.

Waiting to be dragged along by a flopping Raggedy-Ann arm was Cassandra’s best bet, and she had mastered patience in her long walks.

A blue car drove by. Mrs. Wilkerson pushed her shopping cart towards the south end. Mom thought.

After a time the woman stirred, but Cassandra’s brief prospect for relief was knocked back when her caretaker refilled her glass pipe and leaned away in an unsubtle act of subterfuge. Still, reflected the eight-year-old, at least she wasn’t burrowing in her arm with the unbent tip of a paper clip this evening.

The sight always left the girl quietly upset, however necessary her Mom insisted it was that she dig the gnits out.

Down the block and across the street, a newcomer with braids appeared. She was wearing a black suit. It looked fancy, but not quite a tuxedo. Cassandra had rarely seen anyone so dressed up.

Without thinking, she asked, “isn’t that the lady who asked to take our photo?”

“Mom’s thinking, Doll,” came the reply, and Cass was relieved it wasn’t accompanied by a sharp pinch as a reminder of the importance of silence.

Earlier in the week the stranger had stopped and held up a camera. That too had been a wondrous sight, as the girl had only ever seen people take pictures with their phones. She’d been embarrassed about her eye, though now the bruise was nothing more than a shadow of yellow and green.

“My name is Molly,” the photographer had offered, but she knew Mom had been too busy thinking to remember such a thing. When she was so lost in thought her mother rarely retained any of the conversations they had with passersby.

FP417 - DollThough Cassandra hoped she might again come and say hello, the woman disappeared into the shadows beside the Washeteria laundromat.

For ten minutes the street sat still, the buzz of distant traffic acting as the sole indication that time was passing, then the parade began.

From the Washeteria’s alley, a drummer in a suit not unlike the one she’d thought she’d seen the photographer in, came strutting at full processional pomp – yet his flailing sticks made no noise as they landed upon his snare.

Her jaw wide, Cass turned to her mother, but the woman’s focus was solely for her feet.

The girl knew better than to interrupt her thinking, but she was sorely tempted when the soundless bagpiper followed the drummer’s lead out of the laundromat’s lane way.

This second musician was dressed identically to the first, down to the same rubbery white mask, with unnecessary sunglasses and hairy black chops painted across the cheeks. She was far too young to recognize the metal band leader’s visage, but five more appeared, bumping between with the sidewalks as they held aloft the tail of a yellow and red Chinese dragon.

The hushed shifting of cloth was not enough to rouse her mother.

The beast made as if to catch and eat the mum piper, but, just as its mouth was about to close on the unnoticing performer’s puffing cheeks, a knight stepped from the alley, a mute cheering crowd of peasants behind her.

Cass knew the warrior with the braids cut through the rear of her disguise was a knight, as she wore a plastic breastplate over her suit jacket and carried a toy sword. The serfs, a group of ten distinguishable from the others in duplicate costumes by their corn sacks, flailed their arms in adulation as they trailed their defender.

For a moment Cassandra thought she spotted her own twin within the tumult of the small mob, but then the knight was upon the monster, and it was all the girl could do to not disturb her mother by cheering herself.

The dragon dived, the knight ducked. It swiped it’s tail, she swung her weapon. Plunging her blade deep, the champion slayed the beast’s fabric, and the parade disappeared beyond the corner.

Finally the street went silent, but still Mom observed her toes, thinking.

A hushed hour passed before she sobered up enough to realize her suddenly silent daughter had been replaced with a life-sized doll, accurate down to the gap toothed grin and a blackened right eye. The woman knew nothing of 3D printers, but, if she had, she would have recognized their work in Cassandra’s perfect plastic replica.

It would be dawn before she was sure she wasn’t simply high and hallucinating, and another six months before she could convince Cassandra, and The Achievers who had taken on her guardianship, that her daughter should come home, as she would now treat her like a real girl.

 

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.

FP409 – Chum

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and nine.

Flash PulpTonight we present Chum

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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 present a tale of summer miscreancy and the unexpected phantasms of childhood.

 

Chum

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

 

The twelve-year-olds, Chuck and Grim Tom, were sitting on the splinter-filled bench that ran the length of the camp’s convenience store. They were sipping Dr. Peppers.

“Ain’t nothing interesting ever happen here,” Chuck was saying, his can already half empty.

Grim Tom smiled.

“That’s not true, there was that time the Gupta’s trailer caught fire, and the pig roast is tonight,” he replied, his can still half full.

Filmore Park, Capital City’s finest – or at least nearest – RV site, spread out from their perch. To the left, just behind the sparklingly-clean Canyon Stars of Filmore’s jetset, was a hilltop view of Lake Pichimonga. The hill itself was beset with jagged stones, inhabitable only by stubs of persistent grass, ensuring the richest campers prime scenery without disruption from the rabble.

To the right, down the sloping road that cut through the more tightly-packed sprawl, lay the small dock, the swings, and the hurly burly surrounding the boys’ own modest motorhomes.

Grim Tom had befriended Chuck during the first summer either had spent visiting the park. Now, after three seasons of water fights, preteen politics, and fireside crushes, they felt as if they had spent their entire lives scaling the moss-covered boulders and roaming the woods surrounding the rows of electrical outlets.

Finishing his soda with an extended slurp, Grim Tom lobbed the tin husk towards the recycling barrel and turned to witness the approach of a distant engine.

From beyond the corner of the store came the largest RV either youth had ever encountered. Its towering white walls seemed to bulge under their own weight, but every surface wide enough to contain a window had been converted into an expanse of glass.

Its flat nose provided a clear view of the clean-cut man behind its wheel.

“Huh,” said Chuck.

“Yeah, I’ve never seen a rolling shack like that,” answered Tom.

For a moment the stranger smiled, and it appeared to the boy as if the newcomer’s mouth was filled with rows of off-white spines, like porcupine quills, but then his lips closed to a tight smirk and the child knew it must have been a trick of the light.

As it passed, the vehicle moved through a slow turn, giving ample time to visually pry at the tautly-curtained windows that ran along its flanks. By the time it had claimed a prime spot overlooking the lake, they had seen little enough to have their curiosity roaring.

Grim Tom settled back on the bench, saying, “so much for nothing interesting ever happening.”

He smirked as he spoke, but the smile dropped away when his friend returned to a topic that would not remain buried.

“Okay then,” replied Chuck, “let’s see what’s inside THAT one.”

Chuck’s goal for the summer had revealed the afternoon of their first reunion of the season. They’d been inspecting the crayfish stocks in Miller’s Stream, the management of which they took to be a serious matter, and Charles had recounted his plan in short sentences while hopping along the stream’s archipelago of time-flattened boulders.

Alison Piper, Chuck’s quasi-girlfriend the year previous, had often proven her courage to her companions by pulling open the screen doors of darkened campers and rooting around in their fridges. On occasion she also brought back tales of booze bottles lying about or rubber penises left in the open, and these had gone far to draw on Chuck’s affections. To Tom, there’d never been any malice in the acts, only bravado, but he’d done his best to discourage the trespassing nonetheless.

He’d been less than thrilled when Chuck had begun to talk of the Grimaldi’s mammoth Zephyr as the Everest of such endeavours.

It was true that the trailer was the largest in the makeshift neighourhood, but Mr. Grimaldi was also one of its most ornery inhabitants. It would not go well for the burglars if they were caught munching down cold hot dogs from his mini-fridge.

Sauntering towards the edge of the convenience store’s porch, Grim Tom said, “give it up, I ain’t going to prison for any icy weiners.”

“They won’t send you to prison,” replied Chuck, who stood to follow, “they won’t know we were there! Even if we were caught, though, they’d just give us a talking to. It’s not like we’re stealing anything. Besides, they’re strangers who wouldn’t recognize us. Anyhow, they’ll be at the pig roast tonight for sure, right? That’s probably why they came, so we can sneak in then, easy peasy.”

On those few occasions when Grim Tom had been caught out by his strong-fingered mother, he knew it was usually one of Chuck’s arguments-by-avalanche that got him there. He was not willing to surrender the fight.

“Look at that monster, it has cost more than old man Filmore paid for the land itself. Any time they leave it’ll be locked tighter than your mom’s undies.”

“That’s when we use the glass hammer!”

Tom groaned. The window breaker, plucked from a roadside safety kit Chuck’s grandfather had given him after buying an upgrade for his big rig, had been the boy’s other obsession of the summer.

“They’ll definitely toss us in the clink then,” said Grim.

“Screw that,” replied Chuck. “It’s like what Dad said when he took wood from the Grimaldi’s pile over the spring – if they can afford that monster they can afford some new lumber – or, in this case, a new window.”

Though it had not been either’s intention, their wandering feet, guided by nothing more than the usual patterns of patrol they fell into when strolling the park, had carried them across the unfamiliar vehicle.

Most of the curtains were still firmly drawn, but, midway along its rounded exterior, the upper half of a dutch door had swung inward. A woman, perhaps only slightly younger than the driver, stood at the open portal.

She was blond, though Grim Tom thought he caught a hint of pastel pink and blue shimmering at the ends of her sweeping ringlets, and she wore a shimmering yellow blouse that seemed to float, barely there, about her shoulders. Her flesh was pale, her chin a gentle point, and it was apparent, as the silk shifted on her slight frame, that she wore no bra.

It was only when she chuckled that the youths realized they were staring. With red faces they wheeled, returning the way they had come at twice the pace of their approach.

“I definitely don’t want to go in there now,” said Tom.

“I’m definitely going in there now,” replied Chuck.

FP409 - ChumThe argument continued for seven hours. It was debated on the swings; it was discussed as pocket knives hacked at pine branches intended for their fort’s roof; it was argued at length under the stars and over marshmallow roasting sticks.

In the end, as the adults’ tinny rock music blared from the beach on the far side of the grounds, Grim Tom maintained he was only there to stop Chuck from going too far.

He claimed too far was even approaching the RV, and then he claimed too far was tugging at the transparent plastic door of the main entrance.

There was no time for him to mention that it was too far before Chuck’s hammer landed.

As the tool arced overhead, however, Tom did see the full length of the door swing wide, revealing the strangest sight his young mind had ever attempted to process.

Here was the man, no longer wearing the light blue polo shirt he’d driven in with. His mouth was agape, and he did, in fact, have a double row of spines for teeth, their heights irregular and their caps ending in jagged splinters.

The blond woman was also there, also topless, her sleepy eyes peering over his right shoulder.

To the left, another set of eyes looked on from beyond the corner of the entrance’s lower half. Tom knew it to be a child, but it barely registered. The lack of legs was all he could truly focus on: The lower halves of both male and female, just below the gently fanning slits that murmured along their ribs, were made up of nothing more than large fish tails.

Then the hammer landed, and both boys were thrown back by the sudden flood of water that shot from the shattered door. The tide was too much for the mer-family as well, and the flow carried them roughly down the iron steps – apparently largely ornamental – and onto the campground dirt.

Standing, Grim Tom took in the trio of fish folk, their fins glimmering under the stars like the surface of the Pichimonga down the barren and rocky slope, and said, “I am SO sorry.”

“Yes! Outside!” giggled the child, now obviously also tailed, and no older than four by human reckoning.

“Oh no,” answered his apparent mother. She began to crawl to his side.

“Five minutes at most and we’ll be drown,” the father shouted in her direction, panic in his voice.

Given the woman’s gasping breaths, Tom suspected she already knew.

Grim’s gaze tracked to the horizon. “Could the Pichimonga keep you alive? What if we dragged – uh, I mean, helped you into it?”

Flopping over, so that he might see his attacker, the father’s face was drawn tight with anger, but he seemed to know too well that he had little time to accuse or argue.

“The hell did you think you were doing!? No, nevermind.

“Yes the lake would be grand, but the stones and the distance are too much – we’ll be gutted or dried up before we get there. You’re onto something though. Get your hands about my munchkin and get him inside.”

Together Chuck and Tom were able to lift the child inside, then helped hoist the mother, her gooey skin appearing human but feeling more fish, and pulled the father across the black iron steps.

Inside, the table and benches, the couch and counters, the kitchenette and shelves: All was plastic except the plush bedding across their sleeping pads. The flooring was nothing more than a collection of pleasantly coloured stones never intended to be stepped upon.

“I can’t lift myself to operate the gas. I can turn us left, towards the slope, but you’ll have to push us in,” announced the man, his spines flashing as he spoke.

The child had taken to crying now, the novelty of his freedom having fled, and the mother held him across her scaly lap, cooing soft songs between which she gulped uselessly at the air.

“I’m sorry too,” said Chuck, too in a hurry to wait for a reply, and the humans departed to set their legs into the act of shoving.

There was a brief second in which Tom suspected the man might just be lying, and might, in fact, have intended to throw the RV in reverse and flatten the pair of intruders. Instead, the red blinkers flared, and it began to roll forward at a gentle pace.

With mighty grunts, the boy’s splayed hands imparted every ounce of momentum they could muster and the behemoth began to move at a greater pace. Tom could not tell if it had been five minutes, all told, when they watched the rear of the beast slide over the lip and begin its descent.

He guessed it a jarring ride, if the bumping and thrashing of the tail lights were any indication, but it somehow remained upright as it coasted over the rocks that marked the shoreline and into the drop off beyond.

Only the topmost of the roof, and the dual beams of its headlights, remained to mark its landing place against the darkness of the water.

Of course, the unexpected plummeting of such an expensive investment was noticed immediately by the adults partying a few hundred yards down the shoreline. A running crowd met Grim Tom and Chuck as they strolled, in a daze, towards their summer homes.

Endless suspicion flowed around the duo’s culpability in the gossip that followed them till the year’s close – but, strangely, no one ever came forward to claim the vehicle as their own, and, once fished from the water, no evidence of ownership, nor even bodies, were found within.

The motorhome was not the last item to be cast into the lake that season, however: Chuck’s hammer soon followed.

 

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.

FP408 – Bug Report

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eight.

Flash PulpTonight we present Bug Report

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Paul Cooley’s The Black

 

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 chilling tale of long distance miscommunication and the intimacy of strangers.

 

Bug Report

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

 

FP408 - Bug Report

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP406 – The Blue Mask

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and six.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Blue Mask

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

 

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

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

 

The Blue Mask

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The physician was told to hold her tongue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For that evening, however, the mask simply grinned.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP402 – Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

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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 present Tony Dibbs, a man with absolute power.

 

Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop

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

 

He was dressed in the uniform of the plainclothes detective. In an age of t-shirts and low hanging shorts, however, his cheap suit and tie marked him a cop as quickly as if he were still knocking around pavement squatters in his patrol blues – but Tony Dibbs didn’t mind, he was proud of his occupation.

In fact, he was proud to be Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop – so much so that when speaking in the third person, as he often did, it was entirely how he referred to himself.

The shack in question was two stories high, but old enough that the extra space didn’t mean extra money. The siding was wood and original to the place, but rot had set in and the nails had begun to give. Pulling free of their bonds, patches of the long white slats had warped, and were now really only being held together by luck and the natural settling inherent to decades of being ignored.

As he reached the halfway point of the yellow front lawn, the road-facing screen door swung out like a yokel’s skewed jaw. A woman in a cotton nightshirt stepped onto the stoop.

“Yeah?” she asked, her eyes having pegged his profession immediately.

“Fuck off, Tasha, or we’ll talk about last Saturday night,” answered Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop.

Tasha was uninterested in discussing snorting a one-night-stand’s cocaine, in the bathroom of a dive bar, with the man of the law, and, as if a nosferatu, an imperceptible shuffling step carried her back into the shadows beyond the house’s entrance.

Percy, Tasha’s inconstant love interest and source of inestimable weekend drama, was in the backyard, nestled close to a flaming barrel in which he was igniting garbage he could not afford to have tagged for the city to remove.

“I’m no fire warden,” began Dibbs as he approached, “but I’m pretty sure setting light to bags full of half-eaten McDonalds is a crime in this town. Probably falls under the same law regarding leaving burning bags of dog shit on people’s steps.’

With a slow turn, Percy looked over the officer, then shrugged his shirtless shoulders and prodded his smoldering pile with a singed length of tree branch.

“Must be a pretty slow day downtown if they’re paying you a salary to come hassle me about waste disposal,” he answered.

“Oh?” asked Tony, “you figure that’s what I’m here about?”

The lumber paused in its rotation, then churned through a flattened collection of boxed wine husks.

“I don’t see what else it might be,” replied Percy, but his eyes were now intent on the point at which his stir met the flames.

“Remember that time, when you were ten, and you felt bad about shooting your neighbour’s dog with that pellet gun but you insisted on blaming it on the kid across the street anyhow?”

The stick stopped.

“Who?” asked Percy.

“You know, Bobby Mills, the kid across the street.”

“No – I mean -”

“You should’ve learned a lesson about coming clean back then,” replied Tony. “You sure you don’t have something you want to say?”

“I’ve got plenty I’d like to tell you, but maybe you should explain what the hell this is all about before I start providing commentary on that fugly suit?”

Tony nodded. He liked a little fight, it made the job more interesting.

FP402 - Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop“I wouldn’t talk,” replied the cop, “you have exactly two collared shirts, and one doesn’t really fit anymore. You only have the other because you won’t stop going to job interviews that will never hire a high-grade dumbass such as yourself.”

Percy pursed his lips and tossed a stack of crudely shredded cardboard boxes onto the fire. It pulled a smile from the detective. He didn’t require his special talent to read the meaning behind the red creeping into his target’s face.

“That’s a mighty fist,” said the psychic, “take your swing so they can paperclip the photo of my black eye to your resisting arrest sheet.”

Instead, Percy asked, “why are you here?”

“Two years ago you and your brother, a former meth head, murdered your mother.”

The stick in the fire began to move again. “Uh – former?”

“Your brother’s dead.”

“Shit. I guess it was inevitable, but I always hoped he’d, you know, pull out of it.”

“If he pulled out at all it was so he could then back flip into a pool brimming with rocks. He couldn’t even speak when I wandered by his gurney down at Cap City General. He still told me plenty, though.”

Up the short hill, behind the gauzy curtains that offered a view from the home’s kitchen, a round face of five appeared at the window.

“How’s your talking going, Perceval?” asked the curly haired girl.

“Perceval,” snickered Dibbs, knowing full well that young Sierra was the sole person allowed to use the name. The child was, in fact, the real reason Percy ever bothered coming back. She wasn’t his but he’d grown fond of her.

With an eye roll, Tony motioned that he should send her on her way so they could get on with business.

“All’s well,” answered Percy, “I’ll be in soon, Stay Puft.”

“Don’t give me your nice guy bullshit,” Tony muttered, in a tone low enough to keep fireside, “I know about Clifford the Big Dead Dog, remember?”

The child disappeared into the shadows.

“Yeah, the mutt thing is true, but I’ve felt shitty about it for years, and I’ve changed a lot since I was fourteen.”

“You people never change.” answered the cop, “I’ve seen what you people are really like. I’ve seen the memories of the deviant porn you people dig into when you think no one’s looking, I’ve rifled through the lies you people tell your loved ones to keep them out of your way.”

“Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want?”

“Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop – and that brings me to the matter of your mother, and your murderous tendencies.”

“Screw that – she asked me to help her a bunch of times, but I did no such thing.”

“Did you miss the psychic part of the title, asshole? In the end you and your brother put a plastic bag over her head and divided her earthly goods to buy crank. Almost got away with it too. The Medical Examiner was an idiot to call it a heart attack, her cancer docs had tested her system up and down, and, except for her lungs, she was as strong as a horse.”

The fire burned on, and Percy watched it. Finally, he said, “yeah, when Ma went I did have to sell a lot I didn’t want to, but every penny went to paying the ridiculously overdue rent on the shitbox behind us. I’d already learned Maury’s lesson for him, and I’ve never touched meth. Did he tell you all this as he was sick or something? You can’t seriously be trusting the blathering of a dying addict?”

“They never do believe me,” replied Tony, “but that’s always part of the problem. I can’t haul you in for something the M.E. screwed the pooch on just because I have the ability to pick through your brain like a roasted chicken carcass. Tough to keep oversight on the ability to see everything, you know? They learned that back in the NSA days.

“Still, you’re coming in one way or another.”

“You just said there’s no proof!”

“Yeah, well, the jury won’t know any better, will they? I know a guy who’s planning a robbery later this evening, and he’s pretty excited about the idea of shooting someone.”

The fire-tender turned then, confusion plain on his face, and Tony hit him hard across the mouth with a cheap looking revolver.

“Now your blood’ll be found on a weapon at the crime scene, such a shame,” said the officer.

“But – I didn’t – I haven’t -” he began to answer, but the ringing in his ears was too heavy to continue.

“That’s what they all say. Good luck explaining things to the judge, be sure to start with killing your mother before getting to my psychic powers,” replied the self-appointed arbiter.

Smiling, Tony Dibbs, Actual Psychic Cop, returned to his car.

 

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.

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