FC120 – Berry Boo Pickle Muffin

FC120 - Marmy Badger

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 120.

Prepare yourself for: The Hotel California Killer, chess cheating, cabin copying, corrupt cops, Carl’s Jr., and Auntie Grizelda

* * *

Huge thanks to:

  • David “Doc Blue” Wendt (Applied GeekeryTwitter ) for his fantastic tale from The District!
  • Mobster Mildred (Twitter) for heading up the Culinary and Crafts Dept.! Find her postings over in The Mob!

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Audio-dacity of Hope:

  • Black Smoke by Jessica May
  • * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • FP421 – Back on the Road
  • * * *

    Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

    * * *

    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

    Spread the word!

      FP421 – Back on the Road

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

      Flash PulpTonight we present Back on the Road

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      This week’s episodes are brought to you by Get Published

       

      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 follow an aging Grizelda Henderson as she rides the Capital City public transportation system into adventure.

       

      Back on the Road

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

       

      Grizelda Henderson was on the Capital City 43rd, headed towards fifth street.

      She was considering just how long it had been since she’d last been out of the home, but, then, where had she to go? Her preference for hard living, and her love of Middle Eastern women, had kept her from settling into a family of her own.

      Now, however, her fool niece Hannah had gotten herself into a whole mess of trouble downtown, so at least she had a destination.

      “Handihelper is your helpful friend!” said the Handihelper.

      “Shut it,” replied its wearer.

      Grizelda was a good ten years younger than most in Holly Acres, but she’d made full use of her body while she’d had it, and chronic arthritis had come to rest in her knees and shoulders. If it wasn’t for the bulky robotic skeleton that carried her, she knew it would have been impossible to mount the bus’ steps.

      “Handihelper is your helpful friend!” the suit reminded her.

      “Fuck off,” muttered Grizelda.

      For the fiftieth time, she wished she’d had a chance to find the circuit to disable the cheery voice. The rig had been something of a miracle two-and-a-half decades earlier, when she’d first been introduced to the technology. It was, in fact, the exact same model she’d used overseas, when, instead of Auntie Grizelda, she’d simply been known as Lieutenant Henderson.

      “Tenth street,’ announced the public transport’s automated driver. “We regret to inform passengers that the news feeds are reporting an ongoing hostage situation at the corner of Fifth and Maple. Please be advised that this may cause traffic issues and increased risk of bodily harm.”

      Like the handihelper – or the General Motors Mark III Exoskeleton, as they’d known it back in her days of sand and oil – Grizelda considered herself a relic of a past age. Still, time had not stolen her mind, and she found some relief from her pains, and her long nights of insomnia, in field stripping and reassembling the suit.

      Pulling apart arm joints, and voiding the warranty by inspecting the wiring, had provided her a greater sense of normalcy than tottering about the home’s linoleum floors in the greatly restricted hardware ever could.

      “Two hours of continuous operation!” the excited technician had told the group gathered beneath the yellow Easter decorations in the cafeteria, yet she’d known the military grade batteries had been able to operate for five times that, and not at the turtle crawl at which the modified units were programmed to conduct business.

      There had been an incident, near the end of her tour, in which she’d been pinned down, with three other infantry, in a mud and straw beehive house. The walls had been slowly disintegrating under continuous mounted-weapon fire, but PFC Ramos had lost everything below her right knee, and Stanwyck and Garcia had both blown their leg actuators in the panicked sprint from the sandy ditch that had been their previous shelter.

      The mortars landing at their heels may also have been part of the problem.

      Skinner Co. Presents Back on the Road, a Science Fiction audio storyDuring the tense standoff that followed, Grizelda learned more about jury rigging the Mark IIIs than she suspected the used car salesman of a tech would ever know – her continued existence, and the yearly birthday card from PFC Ramos, were all she needed for proof.

      Now, though, few seemed to care about the slow wobbling of a women that age, and thus no one had bothered to ask after the large scarlet override – pried from a floor polisher in the depths of an unlocked maintenance closet – that she’d affixed, via duct tape, to the location above her right breast where her fruit salad of campaign ribbons had once hung.

      “Handihelper is your helpful friend!” the suit repeated, and all ignored it, just as they did Grizelda herself.

      The vehicle announced sixth street, and Lt. Henderson registered her intention to get off.

      As she descended the stairs, she found herself chuckling. “Two hours of continuous operation? I’ll need less than ten minutes.”

      Slapping the red button, she sprinted away.

       

      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.

      Spread the word!

        FC119 – Solving Cannibalism

        FC119 - Solving Cannibalism

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        Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 119.

        Prepare yourself for: Lost movies, romance comics, Jedis Vs. terrorists, undeadbeat dads, Newman O’s, canesaws, and Sgt. Smith

        * * *

        Huge thanks to:

        * * *

        * * *

        * * *

        * * *

        Audio-dacity of Hope:

      • Black Smoke by Jessica May
      • * * *

        Backroom Plots:

      • Inheritance: (Part 1Part 2Part 3)
      • * * *

        Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

        * * *

        If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

        FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

        Spread the word!

          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.

          FP420 - Mulligan Smith in Inheritance, Part 3 of 3Annoyance 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.

          Spread the word!

            FP419 – Sgt. Smith and Son in Inheritance, Part 2 of 3

            Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and nineteen.

            Flash PulpTonight we present Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 2 of 3
            (Part 1Part 2 – Part 3)

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            This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Neverland Podcast

             

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

            Tonight we see off an old friend.

             

            Sgt. Smith and Son in Inheritance, Part 2 of 3

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

             

            John Smith and Ezra Doss walked on, under elm bough and bright stars and the morning’s dawn. They lost the rails in places, bringing terror to their hearts that was matched but by the triumph of again stumbling across the rotting metal that marked their path.

            Three days they marched, sleeping under the summer moon just long enough to be awoken with the sure thought that the Dead Queen was close at their heels.

            Legs aching and eyes gritty from exhaustion, both boys fell to tears when they spotted the first stranger either child had seen in years. The round faced woman was naught but twenty feet from the tracks, showing through a halo of green foliage, and it was only once the youths were upon her that they realized she was occupied with fence mending.

            “Where’d you tykes come from?” she asked with a smile, her rough gloves wiping away their tears. “Ain’t nothing out there but trees and trouble. I suppose you must be runaways? You fellas leave a couple panicked parents back in Spruce Falls?”

            Neither Smith nor Doss had any notion of where Spruce Falls might be, but they nodded in unison.

            “Come, my husband, Mr. Delaney, is about to heave a berry pie from the oven, and I’m afraid if we don’t help him eat it he’ll spend the next two days lazing and bellyaching. Once we’ve had your assistance with that chore we’ll pay you in kind with a ride back to town.”

            The gray haired woman then ushered them to a table, asking no questions regarding Smith’s missing tongue, and fed them two slices for every one cut by Mr. Delaney, to which the aging farmer playfully complained.

            As John cleared the plates, the married couple took to harnessing their beasts and buttoning down the house for a brief excursion.

            Though Smith did not see it, it was then that Ezra pocketed another stolen trophy.

            After an hour’s wagon ride through low hanging trees, they came to a cluster of houses set beside a broad river, and in it a plain whitewashed building simply marked CONSTABLE.

            Sgt. Smith and Son in InheritanceA brown-haired boy of perhaps seventeen was just pushing through the door, but the Delaneys stopped him with a wave.

            “These two’ll need a word with Mr. Severin,” said Mrs. Delaney, and it was enough to send the messenger back inside.

            Ezra offered a quick thank you, and lept from the wagon’s edge.

            Smith, frustrated, not for the first time, that his lack of tongue could not offer up his true sentiments, leant across the clapboard and shook both Delaneys palms with grateful vigour.

            The Constable had not appeared by the time they had turned their cart and made for home.

            John smiled at Ezra.

            Doss smiled at Smith.

            The one-day sergeant would often wonder afterward if perhaps their entire relationship had not been built on such miscommunications. He had grinned at their freedom, but Ezra, reaching into his pocket, was smirking at his prize.

            In his palm was a folding knife, its handle made of stag horn except where the locking mechanism was bolted, with brass plates, at the tip.

            This second act of theft, following on the revelation that Ezra had snatched the supposedly-mystical coyote mask before their departure, was too much for Smith – with no tongue with which to express himself, the ten-year-old’s fist clenched.

            “We better get moving before the Constable actually arrives,” said Doss, and it was only the fact that the boy stood two inches shorter that kept John from punching him.

            Setting his legs in such a way to make clear his half of the conversation, Smith stood, waiting.

            “Idiot!” responded Ezra, and he turned. Sprinting down the boardwalk, the thief disappeared between an inn and its neighbouring grocery.

            Smith thought it likely he’d come running back within the hour, as he’d done on those occasions when they’d angrily parted ways over a contested game of Hide-and-Seek or Coffin. It would be the last he’d lay eyes on him until both were young men, however.

            Perhaps it was the lack of tongue, or perhaps the scars scrawled in specific patterns across the youth’s back, but Constable Severin took rare pity on the boy.

            When no parents came knocking, and no reports of missing mutes filtered from distant detachments, the Constable left the orphan to sleep in the office’s rarely used second cell. Severin found the child’s silence meant most forgot he was at hand, but the lad’s worth was proven when his quiet observation noted the tiny pistol William Salter unstrapped from his ankle upon his fifth drunk and disorderly detention.

            Severin had learned to fully ignore the man’s rantings about targeted harassment all too well, and it was Smith handing across a hastily scrawled message that put both beyond range before Salter could deploy either barrel of his Dillinger.

            In the years that followed, Smith would gain an education in police work, rail riding, and the true nature of the world outside the Dead Queen’s domain, but it was only once he’d crossed the southern border, into America, that he made effort to prove his existence.

            It was a long fight with bureaucracy, especially as what origin information he did provide was entirely fabricated, but, in the end, those behind the red tape preferred to document one more John Smith than let an able body walk as a ghost among them.

            Once arranged, the mute thought no more on his early days. Though he tried his luck at many occupations, none seemed so interesting as his first – still, it was a newspaper article that, in many ways, pinned the lawman’s badge upon his breast that he would wear till the day he died.

            A murder had taken place to the east, a scandal sheet novelty from Capital City. A socialite known as Mother Beatrix had had her throat apparently slit by her husband, a thin-faced drunk. What made the item of interest was that it had happened at a party, in full view of the guests. The drunk had swaggered into the midst of a costumed affair, gathered in a rough sack all items of value displayed on shelves and in nooks, then he’d stifled Mother Beatrix’s ongoing complaints about his intoxicated hooliganry by laying the blade of a stag-handled knife across her neck.

            Witnesses would later swear that Mr. Beatrix was, in fact, in a east-end club at the time, and his belly too heavy with scotch to have overtaken a flight of stairs, much less Mother Beatrix.

            What started as a vague suspicion became a secret compulsion, as collected in notebooks piled deep with press clippings. Some mentioned the stag-handled knife, many did not. Most often there was simply a discrepancy of locations: Reports of two versions of the same murderer, one oblivious, the other homicidal.

            So began a slow simmering chase, yet Smith could not stop the velocity of his course. He fell in love, married, had a son. Through hard work, and perhaps some gentle blackmail, John rose through the ranks of law enforcement, his skills and quick pencil work carrying him where his tongue could not.

            He worked hard to keep his first lifetime – that of Ezra, the Dead Queen, and the secrets his tongue had been removed to keep – separate from that of his second, but the doppleganger deaths continued on every five or six years, and each fed his obsession as if gas to flame.

            Though he’d named his child Mulligan in an attempt to bless the boy with a new beginning after the generations of Smiths that had been muffled at the Dead Queen’s command, he could not help but teach the child to collect each scrap of paper handed to him by his father. It was not lost on the man that he had taken up the very sort of training regime involving hidden and obtuse lore, that he had so hated when he himself was a child.

            In time he found that he was not forgotten. On a quiet street, decades after Smith had thought his mind had let go of the details of the Dead Queen’s stare, a girl the age of his own son had approached him with a message.

            “We are glad to see you well, Mute. Surely now you realize that the magic you thought dead has, in truth, returned to the world.”

            It was not the words, but the fact that the girl’s demeanor was so true to that of her great-grandmother, the Dead Queen, that convinced Smith. They talked and wrote for some time, and many old ills were forgiven on either side.

            Despite his hopes, however, they had no more knowledge of Ezra, nor the coyote’s cloaking face, than he.

            On occasion, in the years leading to his retirement, Smith would walk the edges of a crowd gathered at a murder scene and think, just briefly, that he’d caught sight of Doss’ now aging face – yet always the visage would fade from the gawkers well before the sergeant could navigate the wall of bystanders.

            In his final years, his wife long dead and his friends well established, Smith took his greatest joys from discussing petty matters with his only child. His letters were copious, and Sunday brunches of Eggs Benedict were the norm.

            It was with a strange tingle of excitement that the old man received a text from his son that read, “Do you know anything about a wooden coyote mask? I’ve got something interesting under the west side of the Lethe bridge.”

            Hating to waste words that were not on paper, the ex-policeman had called a cab without bothering to reply.

            He found nothing but discarded Smirnoff bottles and the gurgle of the river on the bank beneath the bridge until he turned at the sound of approaching footsteps.

            Along came Mulligan, the black hoodie he’d worn as his uniform since the death of his mother zipped tight, yet, as he stepped close, there was a knife in his hand.

            Smith knew it to be the blade he had seen Ezra produce on that warm August morning. It would be the second last earthly sight of the old man’s life.

            His eyes lifted from the horn grip, still lodged in his belly, to the man he had thought his child – but now the hood was filled with naught but a coyote mask and a gloating chuckle.

            Smith’s legs, those reliable spindles that had carried him from the distant shore of the Winipekw and across many a cold Capital City sidewalk while on patrol, gave out, and he rested for the final time.

             

            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.

            Spread the word!

              FP418 – Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 1 of 3

              Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and eighteen.

              Flash PulpTonight we present Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 1 of 3

              Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

              Download MP3

              (RSS / iTunes)

               

              This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Neverland Podcast

               

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

              Tonight we delve into the knotted history that would one day make Smith a Police Sergeant, a dedicated father, and a haunted man.

               

              Sgt. Smith in Inheritance, Part 1 of 3

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

               

              The resort on the banks of the Winipekw had long ago separated itself from a world concerned with wars and plague. What had once been the town of Hearse had both contracted and decayed, leaving but the massive lake house, and a cluster of out buildings that rose and fell with the passing decades.

              In young John Smith’s time, he knew every one.

              His games of hide and seek, played with the single other child at hand, a boy by the name of Ezra Doss, had known little respect for the tool sheds and barnyards that housed the equipment that fed the majority of the retreat’s residents, though they’d shown some care for Mr. Madison and his swinging blacksmith’s hammer.

              Doss and Smith, eight and ten respectively, had learned in time that they had much in common, though they rarely thought to pass notes on such topics. Smith’s parents had promised a quick return after a month’s voyage to the south, but he had not seen them since the age of five. Ezra’s mother had also departed on the sole transportation in or out, the supply boat that moored once monthly.

              She too had promised a quick return and not met her guarantee.

              “I’d have abandoned me too, if it meant living in this place,” were Ezra’s lone words on the matter.

              John had spent his entire life between the sprawling walls and surrounding timberlands, his only outside contact coming from the steady inflow of books and news journals demanded by the woman the forty or so inhabitants of the Winipekw’s shores called the Dead Queen.

              Though Smith was a mute, Ezra had been happy to have a guide about the place upon his arrival at the age of six. They’d been cast together since, as those who were meant to act as communal babysitters in their parents’ absence were happy enough so long as the pair entertained themselves and kept up with their lessons.

              There was much to see beneath the monolithic roof beams and along the rough-stone patios. Cruel looking farm implements lurked in the barns, robins nests and raccoon hutches at the edges of the tended lawn, and, on the top most floor, in a highly restricted but little observed library, stood a series of glass cases containing artifacts of mystic origin – supposedly.

              By ten the someday policeman had decided the magical nature of these ancient tokens was nothing more than a legend tended to by a group of religious fanatics. The Dead Queen, sitting always by her fireside even on the stickiest summer days, was nothing more than an invalid, and the only subjects of worth in his years of tutelage were the reading skills that had taught him of the outside world, one Allan Quatermain or Three Musketeers adventure at a time.

              It was a bitter pill to think Smith had had his tongue cut free by the old woman, his supposed teacher and keeper, to safeguard arcane words that had no power.

              The Wooden Coyote MaskThe relics were not without their entertainments, however. It was easy for a youth of that age to lose his gaze in the gleam of the silver dagger’s wicked blade, and there was a mask of wood, carved to appear as if a coyote’s face, whose empty eyes seemed to follow the viewer at any angle.

              “Keeps better track of us than any of these blind-idjit adults do,” Ezra had often commented.

              Though Smith had long heard tales that the knife might summon duplicates of anyone whose blood it tasted, or that the canine face could transform to mimic whomever its wearer desired, the boy had discovered a different truth when he’d lifted high the glass and experimented with each.

              No twins came at his sliced finger, and no mirror displayed anything but the ornate disguise when the cur’s visage was donned.

              It was then that John came upon the notion that his guardians were in fact captors, that they had likely done away with his and Ezra’s parents, and that their plans were nefarious at best.

              Even the apparently rotting woman all called the Dead Queen was likely just a convalescent infected with the sort of disfiguring illness that the pulp novels often considered a sign of a corrupted mind.

              So it was, at ten, that Smith – knowing full well that the ship’s master would not transport any load that would ruin his regular contract – had begun to patrol the outer woods, looking for any sign of life beyond the compound.

              After a week’s fruitless hunting he’d literally stumbled across the overgrown rail tracks that had once acted as the ruined town’s lifeblood.

              What followed was a months’ planning and rationing. Tins of crackers crept quietly from the kitchen, and uncooked potatoes went, uneaten, into a hidden cloth sack.

              Every note on the subject Smith scrawled on paper scavenged from the back of books and the notebooks in which he did his school work, and each missive was carefully burnt shortly after writing. Even then, he dared only pass his ideas to Ezra when deep enough amongst the pines to be sure of their solitude.

              “Better than my intention of murdering the captain and stealing his freighter,” Doss had chuckled when Smith revealed his proposal.

              There’d been no question that the boys would depart together.

              Later, when he realized the depths of his mistake, the getaway’s mastermind would admit that, though he’d convinced himself it was the one chance to save the other lad, he’d likely been simply too afraid to trek into the unknown without company.

              Smith’s last sight of his childhood home came as he exited a rear door under a low-hanging August moon. The weeds and grass beyond the creaking screen seemed awash in silver, and the insects that buzzed at their approach hummed as if carrying the electricity of their excitement.

              Though their escape seemed likely to end abruptly under the snap and crack of a decaying rail trestle, and again when they fought their way across a river whose current nearly carried them from history entirely, they did not stop until dawn – and still just long enough to open wide a cracker tin and demolish the crumbs within.

              It was then that Ezra revealed his pilfered memento, the stolen coyote mask, and the real trouble began.

               

              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.

              Spread the word!

                FC118 – Protection Cheese

                FC118 - Protection Cheese

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                (Download/iTunes/RSS)

                Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 118.

                Prepare yourself for: Painted faces, roaming chainsaw/knife fights, the evil eye, interdepartmental fighting, and The Achievers

                * * *

                Huge thanks to:

                * * *

                * * *

                * * *

                  Mailbag:

                • Send your comments and trivia answers to comments@flashpulp.com!
                • Big thanks to Emby and Jax for their commentaries – and congrats to Nutty!
                • Where to leave FlashCast feedback, or Flash Pulp feedback, as per Janelle‘s demands.

                * * *

                Backroom Plots:

              • FP417 – Doll
              • Watch Project Muddy York’s progress via the Skinner.FM sidebar
              • * * *

                Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

                * * *

                If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

                FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

                Spread the word!

                  FP417 – Doll

                  Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and seventeen.

                  Flash PulpTonight we present Doll

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                  Download MP3

                  (RSS / iTunes)

                   

                  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.

                  Spread the word!

                    FC117 – Sasquatch Hearts

                    FC117 – Sasquatch Hearts

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                    (Download/iTunes/RSS)

                    Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 117.

                    Prepare yourself for: Organ transplants, biased wifi, Putin’s occult undertakings, Mac & Cheese, and Project Muddy York.

                    * * *

                    Huge thanks to:

                    * * *

                    * * *

                    * * *

                    * * *

                    Backroom Plots:

                  • Watch Project Muddy York’s progress via the Skinner.FM sidebar
                  • * * *

                    Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

                    * * *

                    If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

                    FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

                    Spread the word!

                      FC116 – Ridiculous Gold

                      FC116 - Ridiculous Gold

                      Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

                      (Download/iTunes/RSS)

                      Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 116.

                      Prepare yourself for: Florida, book herpes, celebrities doing terrible things, ’80s movies, the better cut of Top Gun, and Mulligan Smith.

                      * * *

                      Huge thanks to:

                      * * *

                      * * *

                      * * *

                        Mailbag:

                      • Send your comments and trivia answers to comments@flashpulp.com!
                      • Big thanks to Nutty, Doc Blue, and Dr. Jones for their commentaries!
                      • Where to leave FlashCast feedback, or Flash Pulp feedback, as per Janelle‘s demands.

                      * * *

                      Backroom Plots:

                    • FP416 – Mulligan Smith in Skipping a Beat: a Molly Blackhall Chronicle
                    • * * *

                      Also, many thanks, as always, Retro Jim, of RelicRadio.com for hosting FlashPulp.com and the wiki!

                      * * *

                      If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

                      FlashCast is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

                      Spread the word!