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FP422 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

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

Flash PulpTonight we present The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites!

 

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

Tonight, we hear the tale of Aurelio Medina, a man on the run.

 

The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Excerpt from the interrogation of Aurelio Medina
Conducted [REDACTED] at [REDACTED], the afternoon of the subject’s escape
Interviewer: Major Nelson Wily

Aurelio: I loved Mexico, but I wasn’t sure I could survive my corner of it. While there were many places in my beloved country that I’d heard were beautiful and untouched by the violence upon my doorstep, I knew there was little chance I’d ever see them in my Abuelito’s broken down pickup.

Yet America was inescapable: It arrived to me on my cousins lips and through the very air around my radio. If you don’t want people to come to this country, why do spend so much time advertising yourselves?

We sometimes sat on the roof of our squat home, waiting for the summer heat to drift out the open windows, and I’d wonder what made this patch of desert so different than what I’d seen beyond the fence outside Ciudad Juárez.

When I asked my grandfather he’d just say, “it’s the same sand.”

Every now and then a relative from down south would come by, looking to stay before meeting with the sort of unshowered fellas who run secret trucks across the border. They’d always make the same pitch to me – you’re young, strong, smart, come with me – but my answer was always no.

The old man had spent most of my life looking after me, and, though he’d never admit it, his knees were getting bad enough that he needed me to return the favour.

They weren’t the only people trying to sucker me into something though, and some weren’t willing to take no for an answer.

[inaudible]

Aurelio: No, it wasn’t fear – not exactly, anyway. One day Tito was down at the shop, grabbing a pack of Marlboros, and he caught a local tough guy, Bruno, screaming names at his aunt. Apparently Mrs. Rojas had given his mother an ear full of news on her son’s misdeeds, and even some gangsters still blush to hear their mama is disappointed in them.

FP422 – The Irregular Division: Crossing, Part 1 of 3Bruno hit his tia, slapped her across the cheek, really, and my Tito gave him some of the same. I can’t imagine there was much force behind his stick arms, but the thug got back in his truck and took off.

Pops was shaking when he stepped into the kitchen and told me the story. He finished by saying it was the end of it, but we both knew it wouldn’t be. It wasn’t even the end of it for that day.

We were on the roof, that night, when an SUV came barreling down the road and swung into our yard. Abuelito stood, shielding his eyes and telling me he thought it was Mr. Torres come to return his ratchet set, and there was a Pop-Pop-Pop.

The engine noise was disappearing over the horizon by the time I managed to make it to the patch of dirt where my grandfather had fallen.

Maybe I could have moved south. Maybe I should have. My nearest relatives, though, were really only an hour’s drive away – well, if it was a quick line at the border.

I guess I knew who to ask, enough of my cousins had gone over, but I also knew I couldn’t trust anyone who knew Bruno, and that made things tricky.

That’s how I found myself in the back of a short box truck, huddled behind a plywood board that was supposed to fool immigration into thinking it was the back wall of the storage area. It was me, a couple with a baby, four thick-armed brothers who complained the whole time that they’d had a better plan but had been held up visiting family, a trio of teen girls looking to be nannies if they could stay away from the grabby-handed bastards behind the wheel, and two others.

Listen – those two others… they’re the ones who did this to me. One looked: Well, let’s just say he was making a statement with his knuckle tats – but his partner’s fingernails were manicured, and he was getting a nice suit dirty. They also knew the white guys behind the wheel.

Wily: Interesting – and these two men held you down and gave you wings?

Aurelio: [Inaudible]

Wily: Sorry, just a joke. They look, you know, majestic – I mean, they’re feathered at least. A pair o’ leathery bat wings would be creepy as hell.

Aurelio: Just fix it. Please.

Wily: Oh, yeah, that’s just what I need, a bunch of Texan taxpayers getting wind that we’re giving you free medical care.

Both: [Laughter]

Wily: Honestly, we don’t know how to help until we know what you were stuck with. Finish the story okay? Every little bit helps.

Aurelio: It was a long trip, and it was hot. There was a lot of moving and braking and moving again, and there wasn’t enough room for more than the lady with the baby to sit down. Eventually we stopped, it must have been six hours in, and there was a pause.

We could hear talking outside the truck, then a curse, and the guy who originally took my money started yelling “run!”

Well, we weren’t sure if he was talking to us or to his partner, but we were halfway to the door before the engine gunned it and the floor lurched forward. Papa caught Mama who held baby, but we all went down like bowling pins.

Knuckles managed to get one of the double doors open, and we see a dog.

I don’t know if they call them that over here too. I mean one of those four legged robots that sniff drugs and such at the crossing.

Wily: Yep.

Aurelio: It was a big dog, bigger than they look on TV at least, and it was chasing us at top speed. I swear it was digging pits in the pavement as it ran.

Tats and the suit started arguing, then a well-tended finger was raised in my direction, and I was grabbed. Everyone else was already screaming, so I joined in, but it didn’t matter. I don’t know if it was just the panic, but the needle looked huge – like the kind of thing you’d see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Anyhow, they poked me, and we made it maybe three blocks. The driver was hauling too fast for his corner, though, and we went sideways. Both doors were flapping by then, and we started tumbling around in space like barbie dolls caught in a dryer.

Suddenly, I was on the lawn. I don’t know if I passed out, or if I just don’t remember the middle bit, but my arm was broken. I realized there was a trail of us, spread across a kids playground like discarded toys. One of the white guys had jumped from the cab and started running, so the dog headed his way.

That’s when I went the other.

 

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.

FP420 – Mulligan Smith in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and twenty.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Mob

 

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 watch a torch pass as we honour our fallen dead.

 

Sgt. Smith and Son in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3

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

 

Mulligan Smith sat, in the clean-floored apartment he’d rented since moving from his parent’s home nearly twenty years previous, thinking about his dead father and the word ‘Pentel.’

He was shaking.

It had been twelve hours since he’d learned of the murder, and no more than fifteen since the knife had found the old man’s belly. A hush-toned phone call from a friend on the force, who’d been summoned to the scene, had delivered the news.

Smith had seen his father just that morning – had, in fact, lent him his cellphone after a sudden appearance in the Denny’s at which the private investigator had been conducting a meeting with a suspicious husband.

Mulligan was no stranger to loss, but the weight of not knowing who was responsible – not even having a loose end onto which to grab and unravel the mystery – clutched at his lungs and spine like a stone gargoyle.

Twelve hours and he was no closer to an answer. “Pentel” was all he had.

Sitting on the loveseat that acted as his living room’s only furniture, Mulligan again scanned the rows of filing cabinets aligned against the walls. Over half of the boxy metal shelves contained his father’s notes, assembled by date across a lifetime together. The others overflowed with archives kept from previous jobs, and receipts filed away for tax purposes.

Despite Mulligan’s searching gaze, none seemed to hold any answers.

He knew too well that the city was full of blades eager to trade a petty death for a wallet, but the only thing that had been missing at the scene was Mulligan’s own phone. The uniforms on duty hadn’t even known to look for it until he’d mentioned the device.

The PI had immediately set about running down the short list of former acquaintances and enemies who might bear a grudge at an old arrest, but the sergeant had retired so long ago that most had either died, given up on vengeance, or were never likely to cease rotting in jail.

He had held a brief interview with Bobby Sweet, the most recent to be released from prison.

Mulligan had ambushed him while Sweet was hassling his roommates for cigarettes on his halfway house’s stoop.

“The ornery mute who put you under all three times is dead,” Smith had opened.

The Sweets had a legendary history of felonies and public offenses – many unknown, some nothing more than myth – and the sergeant was as mixed into it as any who’d survived the Capital City police force for decades.

“Oh yeah, that’s a goddamn shame,” said Sweet, and Mulligan had nearly lept the trio of steps between them before his brain took the time to process the comment and realized the aging con actually meant it.

Mulligan SmithAnnoyance at his own lack of control had been enough to push the detective back into his Tercel, where he’d sat gripping the wheel for a good five minutes, not sure if he would scream or tear up.

He’d done a little of both on the drive to his father’s home.

There’d been nothing at the square kitchen table but silence, yet Mulligan had remained, absorbing the emptiness of the place.

It had come to him then in small pieces – something slightly askew: His mother’s always dusted and replaced collection of salt and pepper shakers appeared turned slightly inward; the cupboard drawers not quite as flush as the old sergeant had been sure to close them; even the worn rugs seemed out of line with the pattern on the linoleum he’d once enacted his toy car chases upon.

Maybe it was just his imagination, Mulligan had thought, or maybe someone had come to search the house while trying to make it appear as if they hadn’t.

Smith’s own ensuing three-hour-long hunt turned up nothing but frustration. He’d been on his way to the door, exhausted and pulling his black hoodie over his collapsed shoulders, when he’d reached for the ancient family photo that had eternally adorned the wall next to the entrance. Here was the last time Ma, Pa, and child had smiled together on film.

A slip of paper had fallen from behind the frame, the handwriting immediately obvious as his father’s own.

“Pentel” was all it said.

As he’d done with every other scrap his father’s pen had touched, Mulligan had carried it home for filing. He’d never considered where he’d picked up the habit.

Now, staring at the photograph he’d relocated to the top of his gray steel filing cabinets – it’s placement marking it as one of the few ornaments to adorn the white walled apartment – Mulligan despaired at what he’d lost, and what he would never learn.

The old man had been his best friend in many ways, but there was so little he’d truly known about the figure who’d raised him. He’d read the work tales, sure, but who had he been before the uniform? Where had his tongue gone?

He was sure he would never know.

Pentel?

“The Pentel method,” he suddenly said aloud, his mouth tripping on a recollection his mind had forgotten.

Pleased to have some reason to keep busy, his hands and eyes were soon digging through his collection of parchment. Reading through the stacks of notepad and stationary pages felt almost as if exhuming a grave – here was the memory of every conversation he’d ever had with the codger, here was every argument, every Sunday invitation to Eggs Benedict, (as if they couldn’t just assume it would happen, as it always did,) and every recollection of the former cop’s cases gone by.

Trivialities, questions, and reviews of television shows – but also Pentel.

Pentel repeated a surprising number of times – once a year, slipped sideways into some other conversation, but often there.

Though the elder Smith was a mute, he’d never been short on discussion. The method had been lost in a landslide of such facts and novelties.

“That pencil on notepad trick reminds me of the Pentel Method MI6 used,” the letter said, in response to a cheating husband case from a half-decade previous, “get a Roller Writer with which to scribble your text, press it hard against the clean side of a sheet of paper, and bam – you have a perfect invisible duplicate until someone sketches over top in ink in that same way. Then you just need to burn the original.”

The conversation had looped back from there, returning to a joke about the husband losing his shirt in the divorce just as he’d lost his pants in Mulligan’s photo.

It was a short sprint to the junk drawer, and a ballpoint pen.

There was no response when he shaded the empty portion below the message.

Flipping it flat on its face, however, brought up a full page, dense with text – the problem was that it started mid-sentence.

Mulligan returned to the previous day’s papers, but the story, something about a boy named Ezra that the Sergeant had apparently known in his youth, still was not at its beginning.

Grabbing up a sheet from just the week previous, and one from the days just after the junior Smith had hung his shingle as a private detective, the son’s hands became calm and steady, even if his tears said otherwise.

Somewhere in the hard steel shelves was the killer’s name, Mulligan was sure. Why else had the house been searched? Where else would the old man have hidden an answer?

He would find it – and the monster who’d ended the last of his family. Then he’d show the bastard some of the other tricks the old man had taught him.

First, however, he had a lifetime with his father to explore.

 

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.

FP415 – Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fifteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One 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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his increasingly sober apprentice, eat pancakes and aid a man haunted by his past.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 3 of 3

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

 

The Denny’s stood at the low tide between breakfasting retirees and office workers on a panickedly short lunch break. Only three other booths were occupied, beyond the trio of customers clustered in the corner, and one of those appeared to be the store’s manager entertaining himself with online trivia instead of instructing the waiter in heavy eyeliner to clear the last of the Grand Slamwich wreckage.

Bunny gave the kid a nod, and the kid nodded back.

“Napkins?” he asked.

“Nah, I’ll take some of the s##t water you folks call coffee, and maybe a two buck pancake stack?”

“We’re only supposed to sell the cheap plates as a side.”

Bunny raised a her brow and shrugged. Coffin waved off the topping-up of his mug, and their interviewee, one Douglas Holloway, continued to gently weep into the collar of his polo shirt.

When they were once again alone, the crying man worked at clearing his throat, then asked, “how did you find me?”

“How badly do you want to be free of -” began Coffin, but Bunny overrode the statement.

“His ex put us in touch with yours,” she said to Holloway, “but don’t worry about that. We’ll get to the haggling and details, just give us the rundown on your wife and girlfriend.”

To Bunny there was something familiar in Holloway’s stunned yet exhausted face that left her with the impression that he’d simply been waiting for this particular dam to break.

“Arlene died five years ago,” replied the widower. “It was eighteen months after we were married, and we were infatuated with each other till the end. We’d known she had a fight in front of her when we went down the aisle – her chemo meant all of her wedding photos were hairless – but she was the sort of person who was strong enough not to wear a wig.

Coffin: A Occult Serial Fiction Podcast “We were the classic goofballs-in-love couple, content just to be close to each other; to hold each other. She seemed magical, and I always assumed somehow that that would win us the war.

“It didn’t.

“She died at home. I did my damndest to make it as comfortable and peaceful as possible, but by the end there was a miniature hospital set up in our living room. It was like a pocket universe in there, an eternity of listening to her ragged breathing over constant Law & Order reruns. I still change the channel as soon as I hear that damned theme. When she let go I was at the bed’s edge, holding her hand, and she was surrounded by her sisters. I thought it was the hardest moment I’d ever have to survive through, but that I’d done the right thing.

“My first notion was to move away from the memories, but two years later I was in the same bungalow, alone with our mortgage and our corgi, Sycamore. Every time I stepped onto the living room carpet I could feel the anxiety of those last days creep in, but I hadn’t finished paying the bills for high powered narcotics and medical staff.

“Even if I couldn’t escape, things changed around me. I spent a lot of hours at the kitchen table with work I’d taken home, just to avoid the rest of the house. If I wasn’t working, Sycamore and I patrolled the block. Despite my evasions, or more likely because of it, I got promoted. I made new acquaintances around the neighbourhood.

“The second January after Arlene’s death I met Selena. I wasn’t looking to. I’d spent so long focused on the next set of reports, and the next patch of sidewalk ahead of me, I hadn’t realized how far I’d gone with my head down.

“I was re-tying a shoelace outside the local Starbucks when she exited with a white chocolate mocha. One of the tallest ladies I’d ever seen, and with a smile as friendly as a children’s television show host.

“She said ‘excuse me,’ because she walked near me while I was hogging the sidewalk and she’s the sort of person who’d rather be polite than annoyed.

“As she’s adjusting course though, she reaches into her pocket and retrieves a dog treat shaped like a bone. Sycamore sits, which is a trick that I’d forgotten Arlene had taught him, and she tosses him the mini-femur.

“That dog was all the family I’d had for two years, and I loved it like a child, but for whatever reason it’d never struck me to carry treats with me. It sounds kind of stupid, but it was just different than anything I’d known until then. Somehow that brought my chin up.”

The tale paused as the narrator was distracted by his audience straightening in their seats. Before he could turn to identify what had roused them, however, the waiter strolled by at a near trot, a plate tucked tight to his side, out of sight of his trivia master manager.

With a twist of his wrist the low mountain of pancakes slid across the largely empty table, stopping just short of Bunny’s coffee.

There was no opportunity for a thank you before he was beyond hearing range.

“Don’t stop now, Dougie,” said Bunny, while twirling her syrupy fork encouragingly, “we haven’t even gotten to the spooky s##t.”

“We dated for six months,” answered Holloway. “A lot of movie theaters, diner dinners, and dog parks with Sycamore. When we started spending the night together it was always at her apartment. Eventually I moved the dog dishes and I almost sort of forgot that I had another home.

“Then I got a funny letter: I’d accidentally paid off my mortgage while I wasn’t paying attention.

“Now, it’s not like I’d ever forgotten Arlene, but I’d had some time away. Selena loves renovation shows, and we kind of jointly arrived at the idea that we should do some repair work before putting the shack on the market and maybe looking for a fresh place together. Thing is, the more effort we sunk into projects, the more it began to feel like a new house – our house.

“One night we were both exhausted from a day of basement drywalling, and we decided to just sleep in my, uh, our, uh, the old bed – the bed that was there – instead of heading back to Selena’s.

“I woke around three in the morning thinking I heard someone talking in the dark. I pulled on pants and went down the hall to the living room, and for a second I thought I saw Arlene’s face.

“Now, I should be clear, it wasn’t a huge ‘Arlene, is that you!?’ moment, it was more like thinking you see a person standing in a corner, then realizing it’s actually that robe you draped over a chair with the shadow of a lamp behind it that looks like a head.

“The only thing out of place was that Sycamore was sitting perfectly upright in the middle of the carpet, but I was so tired I assumed that I’d heard him growling at dreams and went back to bed.

“With the seal off, so to speak, we spent more and more nights there. We were already investing the majority of our evenings tag teaming plumbing, or hoisting hammers, so why leave?

“When we first, uh, made love in the old house, I later awoke thinking I heard Selena crying. I actually prodded her until she responded with a clearly still sleeping “no.”

“It happened again the next night, then everything went smoothly for about a week.”

“The calm before the s##t storm,” said Bunny, through a mouthful of fluffy batter.

“Yeah, then the screaming started. I couldn’t see where it was coming from, it just chased me from the sheets, then around the house. I kind of stopped when I was rampaging along the hallway for a second loop, because – well, it’s incredibly terrifying, but after a bit you lose steam when you can’t see the source of your panic.

“Selena, wearing only my stained work t-shirt, comes running, and suddenly she’s slapped across the face, hard. It kept going, like someone clapping to count time, and then gained momentum into a hail storm.

“I’d never seen her cry before.

“I followed her through the door, but she was in her car and on the street before I could catch up. Her place was close enough to walk, but it was cold, so I decided to risk going back inside to pull something on. Besides, I needed to get Sycamore.

“Everything was silent when I re-entered. I whistled for the dog, but he didn’t come. I found him in the living room again, sitting at attention.

“The call came before I was done packing. Everything had changed for me in the moment I’d seen Selena with that dog treat, and everything had changed for her in the moment she’d been chased from the house by an invisible hurricane. She was clearly having difficulty making sense of what had happened, but it seemed to her that it was my fault.

“While I was sitting there at the edge of the bed, crying, I heard laughter. I knew that giggle. Without even realizing I’d fully accepted all of the implications, I started a screaming match with a ghost.

“‘How could you do this?’

“‘How could you? I’m dead!’ she shrieks back.

“‘You had it easy, I was the one who had to keep living” – and on and on.

“At some point the door slammed shut, and I somehow fury’d myself to sleep.

“The alarm clock woke me for work, and I went in on automatic. Tried texting Selena, but she ignored it. I ignored the ignoring by staring at reports. I went home.

“While I was watching Sycamore sniff around the backyard I heard Arlene say, ‘I’m sorry.’

“That was – I dunno, three months ago? Since then it’s just been crying, every night. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s her. I’d like to try and reach out to Selena again. I miss her – but at the same time, the woman I loved, whatever is left of her, is somewhere in that house. I swear, some nights the bed shifts with her weight.

“I want to move on. I want her to move on. I just feel so guilty.”

Washing away the pancake crumbs with a deep pull of coffee, Bunny said, “in a situation like this, it’s really nobody’s fault. You can’t blame Selena for running off after getting in a one-sided slap fight with Sue Richards, and you can’t blame Arlene for being pissed she’s been trapped in your empty living room until you started f##king another lady in her bed – but you also can’t blame yourself. You didn’t know she was lingering around until she was furious enough to get all Amityville about s##t.

“We think your ex-wife needs to date and we know just the fellow. He’s also into Law & Order and cuddling. He currently has a thing for a lady named Laila, but all you sentimental motherf##kers have the same problem: You need to learn to move on.

“Actually, Laila’ll probably be looking for a new place soon, you should meet her. You might make a nice couple.”

In unveiling her solution, Bunny did not delve into the complicated game of telephone that was communication between the dead. Adding to Dougie’s sense of guilt would not get him any closer to moving, which was clearly the opening step.

In the end, Holloway agreed acting as dating coach to his dead wife was worth at least a nicely pawnable ratchet set, and Coffin had to nod in agreement.

Matchmaking was not his usual sort of work, but rent was due.

 

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.

FP414 – Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and fourteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One 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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his vodka-dependent apprentice, encounter the strange tale of Laila Hamilton, wife and secret nuzzler.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3

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

 

It was chill as Coffin stepped onto his balcony, and the leaf husks of the philodendron that Bunny had attempted to grow, a month earlier, rattled in the wind.

Had he been neglectful in not making more appearances? No, he told himself, he’d simply been busy – but, then, Sandy had also been busy once.

His dead wife, on the pavement eighteen floors below, grunted.

Rolling his shoulders, Will asked, “how’s the afterlife?”

There was a long pause before Sandy’s shattered jaw murmured, “you always were terrible at small talk,” into the unyielding cement.

“Must be going well if you’re not even trying to murder me,” he replied.

Silence, then, “you’re not worth the effort,”

“Huh,” said Will, but he couldn’t help but crack a smile. There were many reasons to fear Sandy’s apparition, but her skill at delivering the cold shoulder was not one of them.

Coffin leaned over the railing. She could have heard him whisper, even at that height, and the slab walls and platform of the balcony echoed with her every crush-lunged breath. Nonetheless, he squinted through the bitter wind to make out her twisted form.

He counted a dozen skipping inhalations, and a dozen moist and whistling exhalations, before she gave up her hush.

“Any news?”

At another time he probably would have just invented something. The matters he conveyed were trivial at best: He could easily fake calls on the two birthdays he’d missed and stitch those falsehoods with the same old arguments Sandy’s family were constantly re-chewing – but he didn’t.

Things were changing. She’d always been so sure when she’d worn the jacket and held the chain, and he envied it.

He knew, however, that her certainty had also been her downfall.

FP414 - Coffin: Moving, Part 2 of 3“I’ve been too busy to call around. I’m sorry,” he said. It was a vague sort of statement, and intentionally so.

With the dragging effort of a winded marathoner, Sandy’s left arm, the bones at her wrist projecting through her torn skin, rose, and her palm set its heel firmly on the pavement. She began to drag her motionless legs towards the apartment block’s foundation.

“Too occupied with your new sidekick?” she asked.

“The ogre’s amok out west, the city seems to be overrun with Kar’Wickians, and someone’s dispatching ghosts without my assistance.”

“Which one am I supposed to be able to help with?” she asked, as the fingernails of her right hand came loose on a particularly jagged ridge of mason work. Yet still she climbed.

“None,” he answered, and, as she scaled the second through fifth floor, he recapped his encounter with Laila Hamilton.

When he’d completed his recitation, she asked, “didn’t you say there were Kar’Wickians in the city?”

“Yeah.”

“Didn’t you say the ogre was up and the dead were going missing?”

“Yeah.”

“Why are you working this thing then?”

It was his turn to fall quiet.

At the twelfth floor he changed the subject.

“You understand what I need then?”

“Yeah,” replied Sandy, not stopping in her attempt to scale the building and murder her former husband.

“Sandy, I’m sorry,” he said.

“So you’ve said,” she replied.

“It was for your own good,” he said.

“So you’ve said,” she repeated.

With a gap where her front teeth should have been, she bit her lip, then continued. “Don’t get weak kneed now, you put that jacket on yourself. If you were going to start second guessing I would’ve appreciated if it happened before I landed.

“Will, if you can’t handle this business pass it on and join me at the bottom.”

There was a pause then, and suddenly her ascent stopped. Her decades-old plunge played itself back at triple speed, and she once again returned to her place of rest.

“Go buy some belated birthday cards and I’ll ask around,” she concluded.

He turned, eagerly pawing at the sliding screen with chilled fingers.

 

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.

FP413 – Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirteen.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Earth Station One 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, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his vodka-dependent apprentice, encounter the strange tale of Laila Hamilton, wife and secret nuzzler.

 

Coffin: Moving, Part 1 of 3

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

 

Laila Hamilton was maybe thirty. Black hair clipped down to a stout Afro, but otherwise left to its own means. She was nearly in tears, but she kept her chin tight and the tension mostly in her hands.

It wasn’t the sort of job Will Coffin would normally take on, but rent was due even if the mystical seams of the city seemed to be coming undone around him.

Bunny, his currently sober roommate and apprentice, had also insisted.

“I’d hate-ta ####in’ see you have to offer up the tight jeans treatment to the guy at the front office,” she’d explained while offering no financial support of her own.

The bored looking kid in too-much eyeliner poured their coffees and pulled a notepad from his Denny’s apron.

“Can I get you something to eat?” he asked.

“More ####ing napkins,” answered Bunny, her eyes on the wrung and torn serviette the client was working over with both clenched hands.

Snapping his pad shut in a way that conveyed as much obscenity as anything that drifted out of Bunny’s mouth, the waiter departed.

“What do you want to know? Can’t you just go over and fix it?” the woman asked the shredded tissue before her.

“There’s a process,” said Coffin. “For example, what exactly do you plan on using to pay for -”

Bunny cleared her throat, blotting out the statement, and replaced it with, “start barfing from the beginning and tell us everything that happened.”

Nodding, Laila took a breath, held it, exhaled. “I like to watch old Law and Order episodes as I’m falling asleep. They’re constantly running on one of the deep cable channels, and there’s something homey to them. I know they were old even then, but my Dad always had them on when I was a kid dozing on the couch.

Coffin: A fantasy fiction Flash Pulp podcast from Skinner Co.“Anyhow, my husband, Orlando, he’s not such a fan. He’s not much of a fan of anything these days, really. I keep it way down, and I set a timer so the TV isn’t blathering uselessly into the dark, but Orlando still moved the set over to my side of the bed so I could turn it down a couple more notches.

“It’s a queen-sized mattress, but he only uses the lip of the distant edge.

“If I thought he’d bother coming closer if I kept the thing off I’d go to bed in silence, but he was sleeping way over there well before I started allowing myself a little murder in the evenings.”

Will was surprised to see the server return with a stack of fresh napkins, and the trio paused as he laid them on the table.

He did not hover, he simply laid the stack at Laila’s fingertips and said, “let me know if you need me.”

To Coffin’s eye it appeared this small act of kindness pushed Laila as much towards tears as anything she’d related so far in her story.

The tale continued.

“There have been a few nights in the last couple years when Orlando drifts across the bed. I get my hopes up that it’s the sparking of something new, but usually he’s just looking for a bit of pokin’ and proddin’, then he’s back to snoring on the opposite end of the continent.

“Maybe a month ago, the Law is done and the Order has arrived. They’re trying to figure how they can bust a murderous grandmother despite having their best evidence thrown out, and I’m fighting to stay awake for the conclusion. You know how it is: You’re so tired you don’t even realize you should simply give in and be unconscious. I’ve got half my face buried in the pillow and I’m spending more time focused on keeping my eyelids cracked than the jury’s reactions to closing arguments.

“I was sort of drifting in and out of it, missing snippets and then catching myself dozing, and I remember thinking it was really nice that Orlando had come to hold me. When we were kids that’s how we curled-up, his arm on my belly and his leg over mine.

“That’s when I realized there was no one there: I could feel the weight on my stomach and thigh over the blanket, but I could hear Orlando wheezing at his usual distance.

“You’re dreaming, I told myself, then I fell asleep.”

There was a pause as a fresh napkin began to suffer.

“It happened again maybe a week and a half later, but – well, I’d been thinking about it a bit, but I couldn’t make up my mind as to if I’d been imagining the whole thing.

“That second time, I kept my eyes closed, but I let my palm drift over the blanket to where I could feel the heft – and there was something there. Not a hand, only a chill spot. I lay like that for maybe a half hour, no longer near sleep but not sure what to do next. Then the weight disappeared, and the cold too.

“It happened again the next night, and the next. If I snuggled into the feeling, it would shift against me, but moving my arm would leave me with nothing more than frosty goosebumps. Every now and then I’d brush up against something though – my guest seemed to get more solid as the visits went on.

“A week later I awoke holding no one, and it was nice.”

“Slow workin’ Casanova of a #### monster?” asked Bunny.

The question was aimed at Coffin, but it was Laila who replied.

“I – I Googled some things before Martin gave me your names. If it’s a sexy demon type it’s not really showing it. I couldn’t find any good cuddle beasts, online, that matched the profile though.

“That’s why I’m here.”

Coffin nodded. It wasn’t the sort of job he’d normally take on, but rent was due.

 

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.

FPSE25 – Cloak

Welcome to Flash Pulp Special Episode 25.

Flash PulpTonight we present Cloak

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites

 

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

Tonight we tell a brief super-heroic tale from the pulpy pages of Capital City’s funny books. A story of bumbling newsmen, space avengers, and true villainy.

 

Mouthy

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

 

Bruce Clark was collecting his jacket and snapping shut his laptop as his date, Margot Cranston, watched him over her smirk. It was nearly midnight, so the main floor of the Daily Bulletin was empty except the lovers, but the newsman was in a hurry to be away.

“We’ll catch a quick bite to eat,” he was saying, “head back to my place for a, uh, a few moments, then I’ll scoot you home before he -”

Beyond the frosted glass of the front entrance the elevator dinged.

The hallway filled with two bursts of muttering, one low, one aggravated, then the door swung wide.

Lee Cranston, Margot’s husband, shuffled across the threshold.

His face was red, his cheeks damp. He turned his head away from the adulterers, unable to meet their wide-eyed stares.

Margot found her voice, taking a step forward.

“I’m so sorry, Lee. I didn’t want you to find out like this.”

Her husband made no reply, so she continued.

“Even you have to know things have gotten bad. It’s to the point where you’re away all night, every night, drinking – then, when you finally drag yourself from bed the next day, you’re an utter mess.”

“I have loved you so,” offered the injured man.

“- and I have loved you, but it’s not enough! You’re always missing. You’re always distracted. You’re always focused on ‘heading to have a few with the boys.’ When you disappeared from your sister’s wedding reception in June… well, that’s when I met Bruce.”

“My own sister’s wedding?”

“You were drunk and in a gutter for three days! I thought you might be dead!”

“What makes this chump better?”

“He’s a journalist! He’s got a job! He’s a good man!”

The shadows beyond Lee’s left shoulder shifted, and the menace that was the Blood Manticore stepped forward. Hefting a gnarled energy weapon of his own malevolent design, the recent prison escapee welcomed himself into the intimate scene.

Margot and Bruce returned to their state of stunned surprise, but Lee simply continued his heavy breathing and shoulder heaving.

“Oops,” said the Manticore, his lion’s face pulled into a tight grin, “do not let me interrupt.”

Skinner Co.: Makers of fine fantasy, horror, and science fiction podcasts“What?” asked Bruce. “Why are you here? Did you bring a hitman, Lee? I didn’t even know she was married!”

The villain chuckled and prodded Lee’s spine with the broad muzzle of his cannon, insisting, “I said go on.”

Lee turned, his voice having found fresh strength, and repeated his question.

“How do you know he’s a good man? I’ve read his articles and most of them are excuses to complain about high taxes and the poor people he has to step over when he exits his neighbourhood.”

Behind him, the monster’s scorpion tale danced with eager curiosity.

Taking a deep breath, Margot’s lips flattened, as Lee knew his wife’s lips did whenever she’d come to a hard decision.

“Well,” she replied, “you know that I’ve had a history with Rocket Strongman. Bruce and I were together during that blimp tour that went out of control, and it was just as he ran to lock himself in the bathroom, pretending to vomit, that Rocket Strongman appeared. The same sort of thing happened when the lunar invaders tried to turn the city into a private zoo. There’s so much love in the eyes behind that mask, and, well, he’s always so flirtatious.

“How can I think he’s a good man? Well, honestly, I – I believe that Bruce is Rocket.”

The woman wheeled on her lover suddenly, whispering loudly, “save him!”

The reporter’s forehead dropped into his rising palms. “We’ve talked about this. I’m in news, I work long hours, when would I even have time? I’ve told you already that it’s just a coincidence that you’ve never seen us together.”

“Coincidence?” answered Lee, his voice seeming to gain heat, “It’s not coincidence. When there’s danger you sprint away so quickly Margot doesn’t even realize why you’re gone.

“I’ve known for a long time – well, a couple months, but it’s felt like forever. I realized when you were trapped together on the Hilton’s rooftop during Zombie Ape’s attack on the city. I – ”

Cranston looked from the newsman’s clean-shaven jaw to the gaping barrel of the Blood Manticore’s matter disassembler.

With a shrug, he gave up his secret.

“Margot, I’m sorry, but I’m Rocket Strongman. That’s why we’re here. Old Bloody here discovered my secret, and thus my weakness: You.

“I’ve known, but I’ve been unable to do anything about it. It’s been killing me. I damn near actually did start drinking. If I’d said anything, though, it would’ve given away my identity.

“Besides, I thought it would be the best thing for you. You were happier than you’ve been in a while, and I’ve always worried that you’d get hurt. You weren’t the one struck by the meteor, you don’t need to carry that responsibility.

“You mentioned my sister’s wedding – you didn’t find it odd that my disappearance and supposed binge happened to coincide with the Condor Crisis? I mean, I was finding feathers all over the apartment for days after I got home.

“Still, I should have told you.”

Silence descended on the room as Margot’s face shifted under the stresses of processing this new information.

Finally, Bruce asked the Manticore, “will you kill us all now?”

“Are you kidding me?” replied the beast, “Pushing my luck with a fight at this point would be an amateur mistake. It’s just when you learn these sorts of juicy tidbits that we villainous folk seem at highest risk of memory-erasing blunt force trauma, or, worse, an accidental death. I’m a mastermind, I play the long game: Outing Rocket Strongman to the press while destroying his marriage will do nicely.

“Have a bad night, y’all.”

After deploying his signature red smoke screen, they watched his shadow stroll away beyond the frosted glass.

Bruce turned his attention to the strongman. “Aren’t you going to chase him? None of the windows in this building open and I didn’t hear the elevator, so the stairs are the -”

As Clark spoke, Margot stood from her perch at the desk’s edge and approached her droop-shouldered husband.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” he replied.

Much to the Manticore’s pleasure, and to the final detriment of Margot Cranston’s relationship with Bruce, the Daily Bulletin’s readers were well aware of Lee’s identity come the morning.

Yet, five years later, when an errant transmorphing beam passed through Archimede’s Gem and into the glass factory in which The Evil Twins had Margot’s tour trapped – the very moment she became Ms. Transparent – she was still gladly wearing her husband’s ring.

 

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.

FPSE24 – Mouthy

Welcome to Flash Pulp Special Episode 24.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mouthy

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Hugh J. O’Donnell’s The City

 

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 fairy tale of the oral tradition, as told in the Capital City style.

 

Mouthy

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

 

I operate in special collections. That is to say, I focus on the mystical types – these days I see a lot of shapeshifters, slendermen, and even some of the fish people out of the Pacific corridor.

Anyhow, it was late Tuesday night, or early Wednesday morning if you want to look at it that way. I was on on my last pick up before kicking off, and I was looking forward to downing a couple Blind Russians and heading in search of the underside of my sheets, but it was a tricky situation. My package was on the upper floor of the former owner’s home, while the former owner himself was wandering the lower level.

Nice place too. Vampires, man, they don’t know inconspicuous. I can blend in anywhere from Kinshasa to Portland, but you drop a vampire anywhere and it’s always the same thing: Biggest suburban castle for sale on the market, casket-moving sized car with the windows tinted like a third-world dictator’s, and no effort at all to beautify their lawn.

I’ve been around, and never have I met a vampire that cares about their lawn. They just never get to use them.

Anyhow, I’m a professional, so it’s still not such a big deal. Bingo-bango – I’ve got the prize in my bag and I’m about to hit the bricks when I hear the blood-sponge moaning from the floor below.

A Skinner Co. Production“You sure you made the arrangements?” he’s asking, and I’m wondering how a Boston casket-sleeper gets all the way to the West Coast – I mean, did he move here before he was bit? Did he come in a dirt filled sedan trunk? – when his manservant replies, “of course, have I ever failed you?”

Seriously, who has a manservant these days?

Both of them sounded like they were gearing up for war though, which is a big no-no these days.

I heard the front door open, and I was out the window and onto the McMansion’s roof faster than Jeeves could finishing bowing subserviently to the the Lincoln Town Car’s rear passenger window and skitter to the driver seat.

There’ve been plenty of dead folks in my day-to-day, and I’ve gotten pretty used to what a walking corpse is supposed to look like. As the car’s heavy black slab was swinging shut I caught a glimpse of the nosferatu, and I’m telling you there’s pale and then there’s pale. It ain’t pretty when a vampire gets nervous enough to bite its lip.

Well, I was tired, I was exhausted even, but it was the first time I’d ever seen a bloodsucker scared, so I kicked a leg over Lucy and followed at a safe distance.

It was a pretty straightforward ride across a half-hour’s worth of the city, and it ended at a covered parking structure adjoining an unmarked office. The whole area was filled with little business plazas and industrial shops, so I figured Abbott and Costello were headed to one of them.

I waited.

And waited.

Eventually I wandered into the garage itself, and figured out that there was a glass and metal entrance leading directly inside. For privacy, I guess. It wasn’t locked, so I readied an excuse – I’m a simple courier who must have pulled the wrong door, teehee – and went in.

There was a satyr, just across the threshold, who was pulling a fedora over his horns and adjusting his trenchcoat. I followed rule number one and did my best to look like I knew where I was going. He didn’t even bother to glance down at me, so I just kept on trucking.

Ten feet ahead there was a desk, and the space to my left opened onto a dozen uncomfortable chairs and a coffee table full of long-expired National Geographics.

The receptionist, a bird-eyed woman with carefully applied makeup and a bright yellow blouse, watched my approach silently, but her face was already asking a question.

Closing the distance gave me just under three seconds to figure my next move.

I could’ve been about anywhere if the waiting room was all I had to judge by, but suddenly there was a squeal in the air, and even I know what that means.

“Could I get a booking today? Soon?” I asked.

“Funny seeing one of you here,” she replied.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at her directness, I suppose – she looked to have been the commander of that waiting area for a long while, and she must’ve seen all types in her tour of duty.

With that in mind, I played it soft.

“Yeah, well, cavities can happen to anyone, right?” I said with a smile, because part of me can’t help but demonstrate that I really do have perfect chompers, even when lying through them.

She didn’t reply, she just waved me towards a seat.

I sat and listened to the 24-hour adult contemporary station. Across from me was one of the closet cousins – a shadowy lump of an entity with bloodshot eyes floating in a pool of darkness and big mitt hands covered in rows of teeth.

I worked hard not to draw any attention to myself, and thankfully he didn’t try and start up any conversations. I was practically snoring by the time my name was called.

A short hallway led to a small room, and before I knew it I was seated and there was a blazing light cutting into my pupils.

At that point, I knew I had to come clean.

“Listen,” I said, “my raven parked outside is getting peckish so I’ll make this quick. You hold on to what you need to pull and I’ll come around to cut you in on whatever they would’ve collected if they’d thought to hold onto their molars.”

The dentist nodded. I guess he’d been waiting for one of us to make an offer.

Tough gig, tooth fairy, but some days are better than others.

 

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.

FP404 – Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by the works of Mike Luoma

 

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, Mulligan Smith, PI, finds himself involved in a high-speed chase.

 

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat, Part 2 of 3

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

 

“So, a month and a half later I’m working this gig. Another wandering penis, though this one with a different victim almost every night. Guy’s a friggin’ ghost though. Always meets his dates at their door, never gets out of his coupe, always brings them to the same place. A week’s work and he was giving me nothing – well, certainly nothing that was going to earn my client her alimony.

“It’d be a helluva check too, as Johnny Rocketcrotch replaces his BMW every six months and the only place he brings his dates is the sort of country club that’d make a clown in a hoodie like mine ten times before the valet could insist I was lost. To make matters even more fun, the car’s tinted like it was Dracula himself driving, so the Nikon was useless unless I could get up near the windshield.

”That’s the kind of shot you only get once, if you know what I mean.”

As the PI spoke, his companions watched Capital City’s east side slide by the baby blue Tercel’s windows. It was a warm day which left Walmart Mike, still toting his empty cup in his hand, to simmer in the dusty – but not altogether unpleasant – smell of the ancient sun-baked upholstery.

“I ain’t no private dick,” the greeter asked with a snicker, “but it seems to me that they don’t roll out beds at country clubs – well, hell, maybe they do, I ain’t ever been in one, but it seems like an awkward place to push rope, unless his gals were into crinkle-faced spectators?”

Smith Sr. snorted from the passenger seat, as, wheeling through a wide left turn, Mulligan picked up the thread of his story.

“Actually, you have a point there. See, this was one of those idiots who figures he has a technique. It was so cookie cutter I could easily make out its shape even from the distant shadows.

“He’d meet these ladies online – which I’ll get into later – then he’d roll them out to his little elite shanty to fill them full of wine. No doubt the grape juice came with impressive labels. They’d talk; he’d open up about himself, you know, try to make her feel like she was exactly what he’d been looking for.

“No mention of his wife, but that’s too big a hurdle for a one-date guy to jump – and, yeah, it was always just one date.

“They all concluded the same way: After dark, the BMW peeling out of the high fenced parking lot like the gate was a starting line. Then they’d take the long way towards downtown at twice the speed of light.

Mulligan Smith in The Cheat“I don’t know what too-practiced lines he used to talk them into it; I mean, I guess they thought it was a fun first date and he probably convinced them they were on the start of a road together. Whatever the case, about half of them would, uh, operate his gear shift while he pushed the straight-six to the edge. He’d drive with about the same recklessness if he was successful or not, but I could always tell how well he was faring by his hands. He’s one of those guys who argues in short, snide sentences, and if she said no he’d end up delivering these tiny pissed-off karate chops at the end of all of pinch-mouthed statements.

“There was no such verbal kung fu on the evening I caught up to him.”

Turning away from the scrolling cityscape, Smith Sr. delivered his son a raised brow.

“Yeah, yeah,” replied Mulligan, “I’m getting to it.

“So: Different lady almost every night, different car twice a year, but always the same way back to the heart of the city. It’s strange what patterns people’ll fall into.

“I waited till he was pulling off the waterfront, and his temporary sweetheart’s silhouette had disappeared from her upright position in the passenger seat, then I let myself be made. I mean, not badly enough that he brings things to a halt, but I pull up a half-block behind him and give him a kiss of the high beams so that I know he’s noticed.

“Now, the Tercel is no match for his German missile. He punches it, and I’m left in the dust by the time he takes a right onto Independence Avenue. He slows just a bit crossing the rail line, and looks up from the blond bobbing mop in his lap – bam: There’s a baby blue shitbox on his rear bumper.

“Well, he really hammers it at that point and slides onto Bay at the last possible second, no doubt watching the Toyota blow by in his rear view.

“He makes a quick turn onto Delaware after that, probably thinking he’s clever but all the time following the same old route.

“Thing is, I’d cut over a dozen blocks back, and was already standing at the corner of Bronson. Just as he’s strutting by the bus stop I’m huddled in, a baby blue Tercel creeps onto the pavement, barricading both lanes at the next crossroad. Johnny stops to consider his options, and she lifts her head high enough to see what’s going on over the far side of the dash. The whole thing took four seconds, tops, but there was no mistaking what was going on in that photo.

“He was so flabbergasted at the sight of the camera that Dad had time to drive the second Tercel by to wave.

“I was trotting like Astaire till I got back to his wife’s place.

“Do you know how bloody long it took me to find that second car? Hey-zeus. I had him cold, but all I collected was a few hours of half-pay footwork and the deli sandwiches I expensed.

“The client delivers the rejection across a table that contains more hardwood than I’ve got flooring my entire apartment, and I’m reminding myself that suing the clients is bad for the reputation of my business. I was still feeling the sting from the previous month too, so, despite my attempts at good behaviour, I was working up to at least using some language the maid would have to clean up after – then the wife makes her peace offering.

“See, the reason she was stiffing me on the bill was because she’d gotten his Ashlin Wisconsin password – but she was afraid there would be strings attached or a fake out after she brought the material to court. She asks me to look into the source.”

Mike cleared his throat. “Ashlin, Wisconsin? Never been.”

Mulligan smiled. “Nah, it’s a website. Ashlin Wisconsin is a dating site for married folks.

“She asks if I’m interested, and, mind firmly on my rent bill, I say, ‘sure, but it’ll cost you five days fee up front.’ She cuts the check right there on the table.

“Hell, if I’d known what I was going to stumble into, I might’ve done the job for free.”

 

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.