Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and fifty-seven.
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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 Carter must contend with the sudden death of an acquaintance, as well as the gunman who did her in.
Flash Pulp 157 – The Murder Plague: Democracy, Part 3 of 3
I’ll admit it – Johanna was the closest to a post-apocalyptic friend that I’d had up until that point. Not that we talked much, I suppose, but she’d quickly took up a hose when it looked like my house was likely to burn down, and that sort of thing tends to make me like a person.
“Whoa, hello Sheriff!” said Jeremy. The ill dressed hooligan was smiling.
We were all watching Tyrone, who was holding the handgun firmly at his side. It was a slightly more pleasant alternative to staring at the leaking carcass of our former companion.
“She was infected,” the old man replied.
“Hell yeah,” agreed the former Presidential-nominee. “I bet if we’d gone back there to look at the guy she clubbed to death, she would have used it as a chance to take out another one of us.”
Honestly, the shock of witnessing sudden death wasn’t what had me on my heels, it was the casual justification that followed. I’d forgotten that these people had been at the business of surviving the Murder Plague longer than I had. The cabin was like an ancient memory, as if it were something I’d known as a child – not just a few days earlier – and it seemed to me then that the extra week of enduring Hitchcock’s had turned my fellow humans into monsters.
Minnie stepped in then, carrying the light of hope.
“What the sweet crippity-crap are you yammering about?” she asked. “You have no proof, you just murdered her! You’re no better than they are!”
She was a brave girl to be shouting at a man with a pistol, especially one who had already proven his willingness to use it.
“Shut it,” replied Jeremy, “Let the adults talk.”
I cleared my throat, trying to get my feet.
“There aren’t any children anymore,” I said.
Tyrone pointed the death-dealer in my direction.
“She was working with Paul – imagine that, my own boy, trying to kill me. Not at home? Where else would he be? Coming to find me, of course. No other way about it. You two were in there way too long for it to be otherwise – long enough to plan. Where is he? Where’s Paul!?”
Having a gun aimed at you is an uncomfortable experience. Like a game of twister in reverse, your entire body wants to contort away from the one spot that would mark the passage of the bullet.
“Dammit,” said Jeremy, conceding his error.
The former grandfather, realizing just how close we all were, took a step back – that’s when a face appeared between the ads for scratch tickets. He was a big guy, with meaty cheeks, and his skull was clearly visible through the multitude of skin flaps on his forehead. The stranger put a bloody hand on the window, and suddenly I wasn’t the one in the line of fire anymore. While I was busy scraping my palms and knees on the pavement with a rushed dive, Minnie scooped up a jug of blue windshield washer fluid.
After several pops in quick succession, the weapon clicked on an empty chamber. The teen let fly with both arms, crushing the codger’s nose.
To Jeremy’s credit, he thought to try for a grab before Tyrone could pull any more rabbits from beneath his sweater.
Imitating the moves of a TV wrestling champ, the youth managed knock away the ordnance and entrap his elder in an awkward headlock. For a moment, the senior stopped struggling, and the situation seemed under control.
There was nothing we could do for the interloper.
I stooped to pick up the barren armament, and asked, “well, what now?”
“I vote we leave him,” replied Minnie. “Like Alyssa. Just get in the car and go.”
“He just killed someone!” shouted Jeremy.
“Two someones,” I corrected.
“So, you were wrong on Johanna,” said the girl, “- but this time you’re sure, so it’s OK to execute him?”
“Hey – I never said I was wrong about her, for all we know she infected him,” responded the captor.
“You’re on his side,” announced his captive.
Trying to hold onto someone who’s vehemently opposed to the idea is a much tougher bit of business than cop shows would have you believe. Four flailing limbs can make brutal clubs. The senior’s illness gave him the energy of a man a quarter his age, and one who’d been doped up on pharmaceuticals and thrown into a gladiatorial arena at that. Jeremy couldn’t maintain his grip.
Once free, Tyrone lunged for the door’s gray metal handle, danced over the store’s original occupant, and absconded inside.
No one was interested in giving chase, but, as we watched through the ragged holes in the safety glass, we soon realized it would have been a short pursuit anyhow.
Instead of breaking towards the washroom, as Johanna had done, he ran through a gray entrance marked “Employees Only” – towards the stock room.
I didn’t get close enough to investigate, so I don’t know how the shop’s first resident had rigged it, but, if Tyrone hadn’t sprouted an inverted axe handle from the top of his skull, it would have simply looked as if the old man had come to a sudden stop. I suppose the idea had been that any looters would make directly for the supplies, but the hoarder’s suspicions hadn’t considered that a traveller’s bladder might take precedence above their stomach. At the appearance of Johanna, he’d been forced to take matters into his own hands.
Even then, it didn’t prove he’d been sick – at best, it proved he’d been greedy.
We rummaged around and found three jerrycans, which we filled to the brim with fuel. None of us felt like snatching up any snacks – it wasn’t the corpses, it was the fact that we couldn’t be sure that the trapster hadn’t poisoned everything he didn’t want to eat.
Call us wasteful if you like, but we took another vote then, and pyre won out over burial.
We were a long ways away before the burning station’s column of smoke disappeared from my rear-view mirror.
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