Tag Archives: The Achievers

FP449 – Unlocked

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

Flash PulpTonight we present Unlocked

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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 encounter an unexpected series of visitors.

 

Unlocked

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

 

The rear door of the chugging hatchback opened with a hushed click, and Tori Garza, thirty-eight, felt her Honda shift and tilt under the mountainous stranger’s settling weight. She’d known something like this visit was coming, yet the newcomer had caught her sitting in the driveway as she waited for her two children to finish filling their pockets with electronics, gum, and beloved formed-plastic figures.

The invaders eyes’ were covered in the thick black plastic of a style that wouldn’t have been out of place on a blind man, and his brow was lost beneath the low-hung brim of his maroon flat cap.

Across the street, in front of the Mitners’ empty house – Peggy being at work and Anthony having taken their little ones out for an afternoon of overpriced pizza and ancient videogames at the local Chuck E. Cheese – stood a second intruder. Though he too wore tinted glasses, his bald head was exposed to the sun and his dark jacket a little too tight to be buttoned without making the bulge beneath his left armpit noticeable.

“If you’re here to murder me then get it over with before the kids come out, please,” said Tori, but, though a cold blade did come up to touch the side of her neck, she received an answer even more horrifying than that which she’d expected.

“No, I wasn’t hired to kill you, I was hired to ruin you,” said Mr. Backseat, and he tilted his head toward the window. The man in the black nylon jacket began to shuffle towards her front door. “My associate is a fellow of especially low moral fiber, though I suppose I shouldn’t talk out of school on the matter given the questionable nature of my own shaggy philosophy. Still, when it comes to executing tykes there’s no one as excited, or as skillful, at the job.”

“You won’t get away with this,” she replied. His brow stiffened at her tone. The fear he’d heard before placing the weapon to her neck was suddenly gone – now that the mother knew she herself was in no immediate danger, she seemed calm. Was she as cold as his client, who’d employed the pair to murder his own children?

Mr. Backseat wouldn’t have called the chill along his spine fear – he might have laughed it off as something like professional admiration if he’d thought on it at all – but his attention was on his partner’s slow progress.

His gloved hand tightened its grip on the knife’s handle nonetheless.

He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, but YOU won’t get away with this. You’re going to claim two large men did it while you were forced to sit and watch, but there will be no prints, no unsightly signs of violence. No one is going to believe you. Better yet, if you resist or attempt to stop us, I get to rough you up a little. I hold a degree in applying self-inflicted injuries and a doctorate in ensuring only those witnesses I want are on hand.

“Remember, especially in light of the lack of spectators, that if you should attempt any heroics I will be forced to make it look like a murder/suicide. I think we can agree that such an outcome would be disappointing for all involved.”

As the fisherman expects a tug on his line when he knows a potential meal is nibbling at his bait, the cap-wearing man instinctively expected some physical response – a twitch, knuckles whitening on the steering wheel, perhaps a slow move to unbuckle her belt – but he received no such satisfaction.

Instead Tori simply sat and watched the front door.

The intended murderer knocked twice, ignoring the bell entirely, and there was a pause both in the car and upon the stoop as he awaited some reaction from inside.

It was Luther, five, who answered. He was small for his age, his brown eyes too big for his tiny face. He might be a heartbreaker someday, if he lived that long, but he currently reminded his mother of nothing so much as one of the characters from the saccharine mangas his older sister, Selina, obsessed over.

Those within the car could not hear the transaction between child and intruder. The man in the backseat braced his arm and tightened his legs, his reflexes working to keep the situation under control should the boy’s mother attempt to run, scream, or otherwise provide some warning to the too-friendly kindergartener.

She did not.

The killer’s lips moved into a wide grin as he offered his hello, and Luther’s response seemed short and welcoming. Reaching out a smooth-skinned hand, he wrapped his fingers around two of the visitor’s thick digits, then, with little more than a glance at his waiting mother, showed the stranger into the house.

“It’s fine if you want to cry,” said the blade-holder. “The officers will expect it one way or another, though they may think you’re faking it.”

“I’m fine,” answered Tori. Her words floated out on a breeze, as if she were instead more concerned with formulating a mental grocery list or what movie to rent to fill up her newly-single evening.

“Are you?” asked the professional, his occupational pride pushing him to press his weapon further into her flesh. A single droplet of blood drained along its stainless steel edge.

“Are YOU?” replied the woman, her eyes finally coming to focus on the black plastic across the bridge of his nose. It seemed to him in that moment as if she could see through the tint as clearly as the windshield before her.

That was when his plan began to fall apart.

It began with music – familiar, yet he couldn’t place it. Behind his sunglasses, the goon stiffened.

Every orifice of the house was forced wide. Screens were popped from their frames and doors were left swinging to the wind. Even through the Honda’s glass the thick rhythm of Casio keyboard and guitar began to overwhelm the hardened intruder.

As human forms began to splash from the home’s now gaping mouths, the ruffian’s hand, distracted, slipped away from its tight position against his victim’s skin.

Men, women, children – even a dog in a custom-crafted uniform – began to tumble onto the grass, their landings quickly turning into an ongoing frolick. Some took each other’s hands and formed rings, dancing to the thick percussion of the tune. The shorter among them ran circles in and out of such gatherings, and the tallest took to a hand waving dance that bordered on a war strut.

Each one wore a small paper sign set upon a string about their neck.

“Witness!” it said.

Still the flood continued.

Two dozen figures turned into a count of nearly a hundred, and finally the man in the black nylon jacket reappeared. He was held aloft, his arms and legs bound to one of Tori’s kitchen chairs, his sunglasses lost somewhere within the shadows of the darkened home.

Luthor led the parade that carried him onto the lawn, his arm flailing with a wooden spoon counting out the music.

A Skinner Co. ProductionThe man in the backseat was suddenly certain that he was, in fact, suffering an aneurysm and end-of-life hallucination, or that his youthful indiscretions with high-powered narcotics had finally come back to haunt him with an atomic-level flashback.

It was neither case, but his trepidation was distraction enough to allow Tori to unbuckle and slip from her seat, joining her son in his victory march.

Though she wore the plain jeans and pink hoodie she’d intended to sport at the mall, Selina was there as well, her own oversized disguise bouncing about on her capering head. Otherwise each shape – tall, small, round, or slender – wore the same outfit: A cheap black suit and a rubber mask displaying a pasty face sporting large black mutton chops.

Two weeks previous the despondent mother had wept upon her keyboard as she crafted her plea: Would The Achievers help in such a mundane, yet so threatening, situation? She had read Internet whispers that the group might, but she had not even truly believed in their existence until the first of the volunteer vigilantes had arrived: A college student of twenty-three, her mask out of sight and a sleeping bag beneath her arm.

What had been a slow moving and lonely divorce, filled with threatening late night phone calls and tears carefully hidden from her children, had then turned into an unexpected two-week sleepover. The basement floor had become a game of slumbering Tetris, the laundry room an industrial operation cheerily handled by more hands than Tori had ever housed previously, the oven a constant source of handcrafted stews and homemade breads.

Without warning the assailant still seated in the Honda recalled where he had encountered the music before: It was the extended theme to a show his father had watched religiously, Law & Order.

The sirens he heard soon after were not from the soundtrack, however, but by then the dancing mob had disappeared, leaving two duct-taped monsters, a memory stick containing Mr. Backseat’s unknowingly recorded blatherings, and a story the police would never believe.

 

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.

FP392 – Underachiever

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and ninety-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Underachiever

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Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Beer Trail

 

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 the tale of a wayward youth, and the gun he considers his last recourse.

 

Underachiever

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

 

Theodore, sixteen, had bought the revolver a month earlier from a man named Bill. Bill had also been selling questionable televisions and grandmotherly dishware from the rear of his Econoline van, but it was just the pistol that the boy had been interested in.

His mother loved Theo and his sister, Abbie, dearly, which is why she worked such long hours at the Piggly Wiggly to compensate for the lack of support from their deadbeat father. The job, however, was also the reason she drank so much when she got home.

The mother and teen’s schedules rarely intersected, but in those brief moments – often when she’d just returned from a shift and he was about to depart for a cheap action flick at the multiplex – she had come to suspect something was awry.

She had not seen the weapon, but anxiety over what she might discover about her son had left the bulge in his right pocket un-confronted.

The night before the shooting had been a hot one, and the teen had watched the sunrise crawl up his wall while contemplating facing another round of bellowed insults from Mathew Barnes.

Barnes, a year older and a foot taller, had spent the better part of three semesters making Theo and Abbie’s walks to school miserable, and any change in route only seemed to bring new energy to the torment.

A Skinner Co. PodcastDespite their efforts to fight back, or surrender, or seek help, four weeks earlier the menace had moved from verbal to physical. Sick of hearing the imitation of Abbie’s stutter that his family was too poor to do anything about, the youth had made some choice comments regarding Mathew’s mother’s hygiene, her uncritical choice in lovers, their shared lineage, and the possibility that, despite the time paradox, Theo may have in fact been his father.

As Barnes had been flanked by two of his better friends, venting cost the big brother several bruised ribs, a twisted knee, and a bloody nose.

Still, a cruising patrol car pulled aside to see what was going on, and, when silent Mr. Acevedo – who’d caught the tail end of the incident while walking home with his first coffee of the day – was asked who started it, the finger was pointed at Theo.

Theo, hand on pistol, again passed Mr. Acevedo in the hallway that morning. As always, the balding handyman had struck him as distant and alien. The same internal blinders that made the boy unable to see the similarities between his own life and that of the man who lived in the same building, in the same neighbourhood, in the same city, had left Theo feeling there was but a single solution – that left him feeling as if he were alone in solving the problems with Barnes.

Moments later, when Barnes had raised his hand high and brought his palm down across Abbie’s left cheek in response to the girl telling him to b-b-b-b-blow her, Theo found himself reacting with a full fist and a scream.

That might’ve been the end of Mathew Barnes, and Theo’s life as a free human, were it not for a sudden intervention.

The saviour was not, however, Abbie’s estranged father as summoned by his mother, it was not uniformed officers called in by Mr. Acevedo, it was not even Mathew’s crew arriving to defend their fellow goon.

A single white van peeled around the corner, its side-door sliding wide to reveal a figure: A besuited man with a pasty white face and thick black mutton chops. Below the stranger’s handlebar mustache projected a multi-barreled rotating canon.

It began to spin.

The first three shots fired from Theo’s pistol simply seemed to warp the space around the machine gunner, but the final trio landed across his chest, causing spiderweb cracks at the impact points.

Before the boy could fully comprehend that he’d slain a television screen, the flood of PVC-skinned sumos began.

From the building’s rear pathway, from the loading bay that lead to the trash room in the basement, from the neighbouring towers, a hundred figures, each with a face identical to that of the man in the van, erupted into view.

The clones, Theo realized, were just masks, their necks tucked into inflatable plastic suits that made them all equally round – then there was a rubbery impact at his shoulder that sent him stumbling towards an approaching balloon belly.

The sumos were giggling, and, within a dozen playful impacts, Theo could not resist but joining in. He did not notice the pistol disappear in the melee, nor would he ever wonder about where it had gone.

His nemesis did not have it so easily. As Matthew had buffeted others, so too was he now buffeted. Nothing more than a pinball in a deluge of bumpers, he lost all control of his direction, his self-control, and his bladder.

From beneath a dog pile of a half-dozen inflated Achievers, a truce was extracted from the tormentor – a truce that he would never dare break.

Abbie, who’d set adrift her online plea for help some four weeks earlier, could only clap.

 

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.

Coffin’s theme is Quinn’s Song: A New Man, by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com/

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.