Category Archives: Chiller

FP347 – Waiting Up

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Waiting Up
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp347.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Talk Nerdy 2 Me!

 

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 Halloween tale of household haunting and chronic insomnia.

 

Waiting Up

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

 

Dwight’s first warning came while sneaking into his son’s room to deposit a freshly folded pile of underpants into his bright yellow dresser.

Fluttering eyelids gave the boy away.

“Are you awake, Boop?” he asked Yoshi.

“Yeah Dad.”

Dwight nodded as he laid-out laundry by the glow of a Winnie the Pooh night light. “At least you didn’t try to lay a fake snore on me. Why are you up though?”

The four-year-old rolled to face the wall before answering, “I never sleep. I just pretend to make you happy.”

Hiding his chuckle with an honest yawn, Dwight smiled.

“Well – make me happy by not pretending and actually going to sleep.”

“I’m waiting for Mum to get home.”

Long practiced in the art of altering the flow of conversation around any mention of the woman, Dwight simply said goodnight and left.

* * *

The next day, well after midnight, Dwight was sternly shutting the door.

“I’m not playing anymore. Go to sleep,” he told the flat white expanse that doubled as a finger-painted art gallery.

After their brief discussion, the previous evening, Dwight had curled up for some much needed rest, but his slumber had been interrupted at dawn by a pressing request from his bladder. Finally stirring from a tedious dream, he readied himself for a quick run across the washroom’s cold floor and back, then turned over.

Any thought of returning to sleep had been wiped out by the sudden discovery that a form was hunkered on his bed, not three inches from his face.

He’d let fly with a rare “Christ!” but Yoshi had only laughed.

To the father’s mind the problem was that the tyke had started to consider the situation as a game. Still, shouldn’t sheer exhaustion have done him in at some point?

He paced the short hallway for twenty minutes, then, when all seemed silent and he could no longer lift his legs to maintain his gait, he headed for bed.

Lying alone in the darkness, however, Dwight began to wonder if it were actually a case closer to noticing the arrow in the FedEx logo. Could he have missed that Boop was faking? Had he really always been pretending?

He was still paying down the bill’s for Mamiko’s treatment, he couldn’t afford to have the boy in for a sleep study.

Damn foolish was what it was. The child just needed to shut his eyes.

Yet he didn’t.

* * *

Friday, at two in the morning, a commercial for car alarms brought Dwight out of an unexpected couch nap.

Even as he stood, his knees popping, the sound of Yoshi’s moaning reached his ears from the far end of the bungalow.

As he stiffly walked the hallway the evidence trail was obvious to read. The closet they’d designated a pantry, just off the kitchen, was ajar, and a trail of stray Fruit Loops led him on.

Dwight entered just soon enough to watch three months worth of bulk-box cereal decorate the walls.

Once he could, Yoshi, through tears, said, “I was hungry.”

It was nearly dawn by the time Dwight cleared the smell of stomach acid and artificial flavours from the room.

* * *

Drifting, only half conscious, through work and dinner, Dwight had fallen asleep midway through an explanation to his son that his mother, now dead nearly a year, was not coming home.

Generally such a sensitive discussion would have had the father’s full attention, but into the second hour of alternating between telling the boy to sleep and explaining why his naive logic was wrong, he’d sat down on the thinning blue carpet and rested his head on his hand.

Now, at 3am, Yoshi had startled him awake with the tumbling of a pot-and-pan tower.

Crawling into the boy’s undersized bed, the father wrapped his arms around his son and held him.

It was not a calm slumber, though, as every movement roused the vigilant parent – and Yoshi could not cease his childish wiggles.

* * *

Dwight was so taut with fatigue the next night that he was barely aware something was amiss before his eyes began to sting with tears.

ChillerStaggering to the kitchen he found the latest calamity.

Yoshi had pulled his trike in from the rain and dirt of the backyard and created a mud track surrounding the kitchen table. The venetian blinds were blowing in the wind of the open sliding door, and water had begun to pool on the simple black carpet Mamiko had chosen for the threshold.

Worse, the youth had marked the edges of his course by burying the contents of the family knife block, tip first, into the linoleum floor.

“Don’t worry, Dad,” Yoshi said, kneeling beside his weeping father, “Mom will be home soon. I’m waiting up.”

The unending emergency was too much. Dwight’s exhaustion had been snowballing, in truth, from the moment of Mamiko’s diagnosis.

Would he ever sleep? Would they ever sleep? Was she the only one sleeping?

An odd thought came to him: She must be so rested – yes, so rested.

It became clear then: All he had to do was wait for her arrival. Things would be better when she got home.

The thought lifted the weight from his shoulders and cleansed the ache from his mind.

Yes, he too would wait up for her.

Gaining his feet, he asked Yoshi to move his Big wheel outside and headed for a mop.

There was a lot to do before she came home.

 

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

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Chiller, Flash Pulp

FP344 – The Silver Dollar Samurais

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Silver Dollar Samurais, Part 1 of 1
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp344.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Donut Button – thanks to all who’ve used it!

 

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 the tale of a young warrior, Darlene Crowe, as she takes to the field with her father watching.

 

The Silver Dollar Samurais

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

 

Darlene’s eye was not on the ball.

The breeze had quit trying to push through the hanging ball diamond dust, but the sun seemed to have doubled its intensity in an attempt to bake the dirt out of the air. Even as a curve flew from the pitcher’s fingers, the outfielders shifted from cleat-to-cleat in boredom.

Twenty feet to her left, Darlene’s father was stuttering his way through an explanation regarding a spilled coffee, and, even over the shrill cheers of her first strike, she could hear his heartfelt, but protracted, apology.

She had never wanted to be here, and the unsightly enthusiasm at her failure annoyed her.

This was no tournament game, it was just another entry in the long August season, but Darlene’s opponents, the Mooretown Medusas, had arrived with an especially energetic group of parents. Their crisp pinstripes had contrasted heavily against the t-shirts of the Silver Dollar Samurais, and by this, the fourth inning, the Medusas held a three run lead.

Her father hadn’t forced her to sign up for the sport, but she’d read the worry becoming chronic along his cheeks and brow, then made the decision herself: Thursday nights would be baseball night, a nice, normal, childhood activity.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, Darlene reflected, if the adults of Mooretown weren’t constantly shouting criticism at the supposedly “playing” eleven-year-olds.

As if to drive her point home, a round faced man in a loosened tie shouted, “swing or go home, little girl!”

In truth, Darlene was one of four female Silver Samurais, which was four more than the Medusas had fielded.

Placing her bat to her shoulder, she descended into a well-honed state of focus.

The world shrank, and everything became immediate. A practiced scrutiny judged the flex and lean of the boy on the mound, and skilled fingers – though in a grip they found strange – steadied themselves on the taped handle.

A Skinner Co. ProductionEven the crowd seemed engaged by the girl’s intensity, and a hush fell over all – all except the coffee soaked man in the white polo who was still waiting on her father’s apology. In the silence Dad’s “d-d-d-d-d-didn’t” carried clearly to the plate, as did the exasperated reply of “Jesus, talk normally,” from the Medusa fan.

It was enough of a distraction to slide the second strike across without even a swing.

Darlene frowned.

Five years earlier she’d had her hair laid across her mother’s lap, as the pair watched an old samurai flick, Ichi, when the phone had rung. It was their preferred Saturday night activity, but both knew to expect the possibility of a sudden end.

After a short-worded conversation, the six-year-old had sleepily asked the standing woman, “good guys being hurt?”

“Not while I’ve still got my sword in my hand,” Mom had replied with a smile.

Twenty minutes later the plainclothes police officer had been gunned down by a muddle-headed alcoholic upset over his defeat in a child custody case.

It had left only Darlene to care for her too-gentle father, but the girl knew somehow that it was what her mother would have wanted.

By the time the third pitch was in the air, Darlene was already running.

There’d been an involuntary, “hurk,” and she’d turned to see the coffee-wearing man’s face now fully inflated. Though Dad’s palms remained open and exposed, the Mooretownian had caught hold of his handmade Silver Dollar Samurais shirt, and the attacker’s right fist was slipping backwards in increased frustration.

The red-cheeked man had not appreciated the suggestion that it was his own enthusiasm, and possibly slightly drunken state, that had sent the styrofoam cup flying – nor had he enjoyed waiting through the length of time it had taken Darlene’s father to make it.

The punch landed sloppily across the still stuttering apologist’s left cheek.

From her position on the far side of the chain-link backstop, the eleven-year-old had made a decision. Had she trained for the last five years just to watch Dad be pummelled in the stands of a crummy little league game?

Not while she had her sword in her hand.

She snapped off the matte black batter’s helmet, and, with the addition of a single half-loop from her pink hair elastic, adjusted her spritely blonde ponytail into a combat-ready topknot.

When Darlene once again lifted her bat, her grip was unlike any ever used by a major leaguer.

Despite the stickiness in the air and the silliness of her bright yellow uniform, it felt good to run. Too often this ridiculous sport had come down to waiting for a brief moment of activity. The sense of personal command had always been one of her favourite things about kenjutsu practice: She might not be able to control the world, but her blade moved only where she placed it.

The samurai landed in a flat footed stance with her arms braced at her side. Her weapon’s hilt was low to her belly, and the club’s shaft stood as ramrod straight as her spine.

There was no wavering in either.

“I will strike you in three seconds if you do not release my father,” she said, though she had to fight not to clench her jaw.

The damp man in the second bleacher row turned, though he did not think to release his grip on Dad’s now-crumpled collar.

“Three,” she said.

She knew he was probably just too surprised at the demand to react quickly, but she lept anyhow. Stepping lightly between an oversized pleather purse and a denim ensconced Silver Dollar supporter, as if they were no more than the silent grasses lining a still pond, Darlene closed the distance and swept her stand-in sword upwards.

Before the impacted forearm had even finished its new skyward arc, however, she’d checked her swing and pivoted. With a two-fisted grip, she planted the tip of her aluminum temporary-katana in the meat of her opponent’s calf muscle.

The seizing of his leg left the irritable pugilist empty handed and on his back for several deep exhalations. The watching crowd, who’d unanimously opted to give the combatants a respectful distance, had, in turn, stopped their own breathing.

Darlene simply waited, with the sun at her back and her makeshift gunto raised.

A lone cicada sang to them from somewhere beyond the outfield fence.

Despite the collective anticipation, by the time the girl’s adversary had righted himself he no longer had any interest in discussing the incident. Instead, with sullen jowls, he announced to no one directly that he would wait out the second half of the game in his car.

For ten full minutes the Medusan coach expounded loudly on the inappropriateness of the incident, but, when it became apparent his Silver Dollar counterpart wasn’t likely to forfeit, justice had to be held to benching Darlene for at least the rest of the game.

Still, she’d been reminded of the taste of combat, and her stinging gaze sweeping the field was impossible for the Medusans to ignore. Nerves alone lost them the game at 7 to 5.

The win was her first, but, upon returning home, Darlene decided Thursdays would instead be better spent quietly with her father – perhaps they could learn the nuances of temae together.

For his sake, though, she would occasionally call the traditional ceremony a tea party.

 

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

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Chiller, Flash Pulp

FP339 – Blind

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Blind, Part 1 of 1
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp339.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by Libr8: A Continuum 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, join us in the freshly empty home of Sidney Topesh, for a tale of creeping proportions – a story of rot, ruin, and restoration.

 

Blind

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

 

The house was empty.

It had taken six months of lawyer fees, and the complete estrangement of his three grown children, but Sidney Topesh finally had what he’d convinced himself he’d always wanted: Quiet.

He walked from his front door with his shoes on, tramping mud onto the rose-coloured carpet that had been Hillary’s choice for the living room.

The space was silent except for the clicking march of the brass and glass clock that had, nearly thirty years earlier, been Hillary’s mother’s wedding gift. It had always delighted him that she’d hated the thing. The usual noise – the TV’s constant rotation of daytime talk shows and CNN – had been unplugged, and the device’s broad black eye stared at him blankly.

Somehow it seemed to be waiting.

“She’s not coming back,” Sidney informed it with a chuckle.

His long established guesses regarding how much he might get for the beast at the nearest pawn shop would soon be tested – but not today. Today was for rest.

He moved through Hillary’s now-empty home office. The rug still held the shape of her desk’s rarely-shifted legs, and the mauve walls were marked by the outlines of the hung frames that had, until recently, protected the paint from the room’s flood of sunlight.

It was while mentally measuring for curtains, and the bar he planned on having installed, that he noted the rag-wearing man stumbling through the backyard.

“What the hell?” he asked, but the overhead fan provided no answers in its sweeping whispers.

Not having to put on shoes meant he really had only to step into the kitchen and out the back door to confront the vagrant, but he detoured to retrieve the baseball bat he kept in the front closet nonetheless.

The squat bungalow was far enough from town to be considered a country home, though the neighbours were still so close as to annoy its owner with their backyard barbeques and children’s birthday parties. Passing strangers were few.

By the time Sidney made his exit, the trespasser was headed towards the fence that separated his yard from the Parkers’. Without the sheen of the glass between them, he could see that the man was perhaps fifty, with silver hair and expensive loafers. His collared shirt was tucked in, but had been ripped at the shoulder, and his light brown slacks had been spattered with mud.

The wanderer asked, “can I come in?”

Feeling some safety in the distance between himself and the newcomer, Topesh responded with an inquiry of his own.

“What happened?”

The unexpected guest began to close the gap. His pace was methodical, like a drunk who had to think hard about walking straight, and his left arm hung limply at his side as his right came up to shake hello.

Sidney watched the slow approach of the upturned palm for thirty nearly-silent seconds, then he changed his question.

“Why are you here?”

There was a pause before the intruder responded, and his nose seemed to shift, as if it were having difficulty remaining attached.

His answer was, “can I come in?”

At ten feet Sidney demanded he stop.

At five he began backpedaling himself.

At one he wished he’d simply turned to run.

Raising the bat over his head, the divorcé pushed out with his free hand and hoped that the apparent tweaker would simply keel over. The man’s momentum, however, meant Sidney slipped over the cusp of the ripped shirt and into contact with the intruder’s papery skin. For a moment the surface seemed to collapse with the pressure, drawing his fingers in, then the man’s eyes went from a look of dull distraction to one of panic.

Without warning the unwanted visitor began a staggering sprint towards the broad brown boards of the largely-ornamental fence, and, before Topesh might unfurl himself from his defensive crouch, disappeared between the hedges that lined the Parkers’ pool.

* * *

After fifteen minutes of staring from his kitchen window and getting no answer from Dalton Parker’s cell phone, Sidney decided he wasn’t calling the police. He’d booked off two weeks of vacation time to celebrate his legal victory, and, goddammit, he wasn’t going to waste them talking to bored cops about some hobo who was likely already napping in a ditch two towns over.

Still, there was no harm in locking the doors.

Over the next hour he poured himself an afternoon scotch, watered the windowsill greenery he wished would simply give in and die, and tidied the shoe rack in the closet. Sidney was unaccustomed to housework, but he expected messes would be minimal now that he wasn’t living with a herd of pigs.

The scotch, his cleaning efforts, and the vacuum left by the morning’s flush of adrenaline, were enough to lay him out on the couch. His eyelids seem to drop as quickly as the level of liquor in his tumbler, and, despite a strange itching in the pads of his fingers, the mantel clock’s measured ticking pulled him into a nap.

Three hours later he woke up blind.

ChillerHe remembered terrible dreams – something about Hillary trying to scratch at his eyes – and could even feel where he’d reflexively set his palms to his cheeks to save his sight.

In his confusion, he called, “Corey? Wade?”

Before he attempted to summon Tessa, twenty and his youngest, he caught himself in his error.

Frankly, he didn’t want help from those parasites anyhow.

Taking in a deep breath, he stood. With a slow, prodding, pace, he made his way to where he believe he’d left the phone: In its base, on the main hall’s credenza.

It took five long minutes to discover it wasn’t there.

Normally a simple turn of his head would have allowed him to note that he’d forgotten it on the kitchen counter, but frustration clouded his memory, and his lack of sight robbed him of any satisfaction that he might have felt after sweeping the personalized pad of stationary and the empty phone charger onto the ground.

He did not notice the shattering of Hillary’s antique plaque-bound thermometer, which had also occupied the surface, nor the drop of mercury that landed on his wrist. He could not see the spread of apparent frost where it fell.

He’d shouted “Morons!” before he realized that the kids weren’t around to blame.

Sidney’s pounding pulse brought a terrible thought to mind: Had he had a stroke?

What were the signs again?

He realized his hands felt numb. His heart drummed a reminder to calm down.

With a hitching breath, he sat heavily on the hall rug and did his best not to panic.

He knew the Parkers weren’t home – or they hadn’t been, at least. Could he make it to their front door without breaking a leg? Would they even be back?

For the first moment in perhaps a decade, he wished Hilary was near.

With no warning, the world returned. Not the full crisp universe he was used to, but some semblance of light and shape.

Sidney, in another rare move, smiled.

Within fifteen minutes his vision was shifting and imperfect, but functional enough to find his misplaced phone.

He was standing beside the oak-topped kitchen island, considering the blob of gray-blue that appeared to be the unit’s buttons, when he noted the white spot on the back of his right wrist. His finger was drawn from the 9 of 911, and his well-trimmed nail prodded the ivory dot.

He still had no feeling in his fingers, but, even with his blurred perspective, it was obvious the tip was entering at least as deep as its cuticle.

There was no stopping panic now, and he jerked his hands apart. His over interest in not further injuring his right arm made him oblivious to the trajectory of his left, and it impacted with some force against the brass hardware of the cupboards.

What would have normally been a well-earned bruise became, instead, a blast of shattered hand spread across the wood and floor.

The sight of his destroyed appendage was too much, and Sidney’s mind sent him back into unconsciousness.

When he awoke the second time, he nearly thought it had all been a trick of brain chemistry during a midday nightmare. His vision was no more blurred than he might expect from any scotch induced nap, and the rest of his aches could just as easily be explained by the same.

It was when he looked down that the truth became unavoidable. There, though both hands looked otherwise fine, was that same white fleck.

Heading back to the credenza, he opened drawers till he located the high-powered magnifying glass Hilary had always kept around in case of a need she never had. The most use the thing had ever seen was when Wade, then aged 10, used it to scorch ants in the backyard.

Through the lense the blotch loomed huge, and it’s edges appeared to be moving. A single ghostly speck – given the magnification it could be no larger than a mite – lept from the edge of the snowy field and began to trundle towards his palm.

Leaning close, it was soon clear to Sidney the entire patch was made up of the miniscule nits. Though his sight remain smudged, it was just possible to identify tiny stalks that seemed to hold them together like sinew. Worse, as his inspection edged from the white and into the pink of his arm, the invasion did not stop – it simply altered colour.

Despite his control of the limb, his forearm was only his in appearance. Every hair and freckle was now replaced with a chain of these chameleon parasites.

This time, instead of the relief of unconsciousness, the stress – certainly greater than any he’d felt during the divorce proceedings – twisted Sidney’s stomach.

Falling to what once were his hands and knees, his mouth opened wide, emptying the contents of his interior. He did not see a return of the scotch and his morning’s toast, however: Instead the reflex pushed out the replica of his throat lining, then a mass of writhing red, blue, and green that seemed like a child’s efforts at sketching human organs.

They all seemed so dry; almost papery.

Despite his best efforts, his body would not allow his jaw to close as the tide slowly turned, and the mass of invaders began their slow march back to his maw.

Sidney found he no longer had the ability to cry as he watched a counterfeit lung drift past his teeth.

For a while he was left to simply lie on his side, his eyes locked on a view of the shattered thermometer and the scattered Topesh Residence stationary.

His hearing ceased to function, but returned perhaps an hour later.

The hall darkened.

Finally, as the clock on the mantel marked three a.m., he felt himself begin to rise.

Every part of his mind focused on the phone in the kitchen. He knew it was too late, but perhaps a message? Perhaps an apology?

Despite the exertions of what little humanity was left to Sidney, he began to stagger instead for the front door.

As he watched foreign, but familiar, fingers grasp the handle, a voice that was not quite his own tested itself by asking, “can I come in?”

 

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

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Chiller, Flash Pulp