Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and forty.
Tonight we present Late
This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Freelance Hunters!
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight we present a tale of reminder from the Skinner Co. Mellowness Dept. – because you never know just what your day may hold.
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
A slip of his thumb, while tumbling into sleep, had left Elbert Espinoza ten minutes behind schedule, which is why he was attempting to finish his morning coffee while dragging his electric razor across his neck. Still, he did not relish explaining to Sandra, the head of his service area, that being late wasn’t his fault because he’d accidentally set his alarm to PM instead of AM.
Despite generally being a rather fastidious man, Elbert paid no mind to the free-flying stubble that had landed in his morning caffeination. It was this same lowering of standards, caused by fear, that made Espinoza unusually brusque to the old man he encountered when he’d finally made it across the frayed green carpet of his apartment building’s lobby.
The stranger wore a black cap and a jacket thrice too thick for the weather, and his muttering manner, combined with the indiscriminate stains across his beard and shirt, left Elbert with little doubt that he was homeless.
Otherwise, given the hour, the parking lot was unusually empty.
In truth, the sight of the wanderer was not entirely a surprise, but Elbert had lingered around his neighbourhood’s cracked sidewalks and decaying parks long enough to be familiar with most of the folks who depended upon newspaper bedding and the kindness of strangers.
Feeling, in some odd way, that they were as trapped in their existence as much as he in his, Espinonza had formed a friendly relationship with the local vagrants, yet it had not struck him that any job that left him in such a position might not be worth the stress he devoted to it.
The unknown – be it the consequences of his later arrival or the vagaries of the city’s employment market – was truly his greatest fear, and he was otherwise deeply invested in continuing to eat.
It was this he had in mind when he shouldered past the man’s stink-breathed warning.
“Sir,” began the drifter, “Time is short -” and he moved close, as if he spoke of a dire situation to family, but Elbert did not cease his approach to his Nissan Micra.
Though the jolt sent the derelict to the pavement, Elbert felt he had time to offer little more than a quick “Sorry,” before tossing his plastic-bagged lunch onto the passenger seat and directing the tiny car onto the roadway.
The vehicle’s engine hummed like a swarm of enraged bees, and he made good progress for three straight minutes before having to turn onto a major roadway. It was there, on Pinewood Avenue, that he encountered his next obstacle.
Two blocks to his left, a traffic light refused to offer up anything but a red signal, and the community response to having to self-regulate the stop had quickly devolved into a snarl of honking and angrily lowered windows.
Elbert was twenty minutes overdue to his desk when he decided he would thrust the nose of his Micra into a gap between a black Escalade and a low-slung Civic. It meant blocking cross traffic, but it seemed unlikely someone would be so polite as to allow him access into the lineup otherwise.
He was twenty-five minutes behind when a cop cruiser’s rolling sirens barely cleared a passage for its high-speed approach through the crossroads. Epsinoza, largely focused on not scraping a swath of paint on the barely-inching SUV ahead of his bumper, was not so quick to react.
The patrol car’s glancing impact along the hatchback’s rear was enough to remove the Escalade’s tail lights and send Elbert into a tumbling spin.
Achieving a tight triple-loop that would have left an Olympic skater jealous, the Micra landed on its wheels, shattering the workings of its underbelly.
Across the street the officer, having determined his car was still functional, did not stop.
Once he realized he was still alive, Elbert stumbled from his vehicle, but, as he moved away from the wreckage, his considerations did not run towards appreciating his unlikely survival – instead, his mind plunged directly into frustration over his situation.
His knees wobbling with adrenaline, he turned his face towards the sky and began a long shout of: “FUUUUUUU-”
That’s when the rumbling began.
Pipes beneath the intersection burst, spewing sewage onto the roadway and causing a chain reaction of collisions as those locked into a turn attempted to reverse out of the pungent stink that rose with it. They had little opportunity to escape, however, as the first of the Spider-God’s barbed appendages thrust its ebon spires through the crumbling pavement.
Yet, even as he fell into the final shadow of Kar’Wick the Arachnid Lord, at some level the desk jockey was simply glad he wouldn’t have to attempt to explain his tardiness – then he was nothing more than the late Elbert Espinoza.
Flash Pulp is presented by https://www.skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.
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– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.