Flash Pulp 102 – The Murder Plague: Harm's Return, Part 3 of 3
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and two.
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method and Other Stories”.
Sure, sacrificing one of your kidneys to keep a loved one alive would be a touching Christmas gift, but wouldn’t this award-winning selection of short tales just be easier?
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, Harm has a discussion regarding the madness that seems to have descended upon his hometown of Mass Acres; a discussion which leads to further unpleasant realizations.
Flash Pulp 102 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 3 of 3
It’s a rough go to take in the death of three people you knew, much less in the space of fifteen minutes. The sight of a familiar face, especially one that could still intake breath and feasibly even provide some explanation as to what had brought on such murderous intention in Catarina and the Hernandez family, left me considerably more eager for the company of the ivory-haired Doctor Henley than I’d ever been previously.
I did my best to pull myself together, then trotted across the road to his doorstep.
He let me in, then promptly returned to his viewing post.
The doctor’s house was orderly, his white faux-leather couch, and matching living room, spotless. Across the glass top of the coffee table lay a spread of outdated National Geographic magazines, and his beige walls were decorated with carefully generic landscape paintings.
It is hard to describe the feeling of suddenly finding myself in that apparently unchanged center of calm. It was something like stumbling from a war zone into a Zen Buddhist’s garden.
As I’ve mentioned, I knew few of my neighbours, but, in truth, Henley was likely the person in town I’d known the longest, as he was my own physician. Still, despite his intimacy with my intimates – or, likely, due to – I’d rarely spoken to him outside of the context of his office, which was also garnished with white faux-leather.
He began to fix me a drink as I entered, which I was too polite to refuse, having never told him about my need to refrain, and I shuffled aside a full-cover spread of the pyramids to make room to set it down.
It seemed little use dancing around the subject, so I began with the news I thought he’d find easiest to take.
“The Hernandezes are dead.”
He nodded, raising his own glass as if to salute them. After a moment he cocked an eyebrow at my abstention, then drank deeply. Finally, he spoke.
“It doesn’t surprise me much. I noticed your car’s been gone these last few days – you’ve been away?”
“Yes, I’ve been camping at the cabin.”
Since I’d been forced to depart my home, my mind had been grinding over the reason behind Catarina’s sudden betrayal. Part of my subconscious had become convinced that nuclear annihilation was imminent, and that she’d simply been conducting the ultimate work-related revenge fantasy. Certainly, if she had some concern about her pay, I’d have preferred she issue a complaint than attempt to lodge a chef’s knife in my ribcage. After finding the Hernandezes in their decomposing state, however, I was beginning to understand that some larger tragedy was in motion.
The doctor confirmed my fears.
“They named it Hitchcock’s disease,” said Henley, “although it’s really a virus. It lays dormant for a few weeks after infection, then begins to work at the survival instincts of the brain. The infected suffers paranoid delusions, and soon after believes the people around them are plotting their demise. They become convinced that the only way to prevent their own death is to murder the other fellow first.”
The doctor finished his glass, and, I must admit, I was mightily tempted to take up my own. He seemed to be watching me closely – I couldn’t blame him, considering.
“Is there no cure? No way to stop it?”
“Oh, yes,” he continued to speak as he left the room. “There is a vaccine. It’s a slow thing, and so civilized in a way. Usually the survivor tries to conceal their crime – the police of course being just another party attempting to do them in.”
He returned, setting a briefcase down on the the gathered faces of a group of aboriginals.
“It takes contact though – contact and opportunity. You can likely still safely order a pizza, if you don’t stop to chat with the delivery guy long enough to give him ideas. Even then, so long as you don’t provide him an opening, and don’t order from that location again, you can probably say your goodbyes and not be concerned.”
As he continued his narration, he pulled back his sleeves and extracted a pair of latex gloves from the interior of his case.
“Yet, if you’re brave enough to leave your window ajar in the evenings, you will hear the sound of shovel-work emanating from many darkened backyards.”
I asked him about the police.
“Well, there’s no television or Internet to deliver the news, but you don’t hear sirens too often either, so I suspect they’re all too busy murdering their families to deal with the public,” was his reply.
He held up a syringe and vial, then jabbed one into the other. Pulling out the painful end, he motioned for me to roll up my sleeve.
I did so.
He leaned over his working area, a thumb pressing at my forearm in search of a vein. He held the needle aloft.
I do not remember fully forming my reasoning, but my hand moved faster than my brain; I plucked the instrument from his fingers with the speed of a child snatching back its favourite toy from a sibling.
In a single motion, I righted the device and thrust it into his leg, fully depressing the plunger.
“I apologize,” I said immediately. “Consider it a game of trust, as I’ve never heard of a vaccine upon which you can overdose.”
He may have attempted to stand and reply, or he may have been attempting to retrieve some tool with which to beat me, whatever the case, he never made it upright. Instead he toppled sideways onto the milky expanse, and, after a moment, a line of bloody drool began to trickle from his gaping mouth.
I had learned the prime lesson of the murder plague: think, at all times, like a person who wishes to murder you.
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