April 13, 2012 by JRD Skinner
Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and fifty-nine.
Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Capital City, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Nutty Bites 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, Harm Carter loses himself in a city besieged by the paranoia inducing effects of The Murder Plague.
The Murder Plague: Capital City, Part 1 of 1
Panic can carry your feet incredible distances, and I was deeply lost in a nameless suburb before my mine ran dry.
My backstreet marathon hadn’t given me any better idea of where I might be, but it did provide a general impression of how the contagion had rippled through the city.
It was a silent thing, back in Mass Acres. Everyone simply locked their doors and went quietly mad – not so, in Capital City, as was made evident by the junk mail, and lawn ornament wreckage, which littered the sidewalks.
For example, when my adrenaline subsided, and my paranoia retreated to a general low-level terror, I noted a consistent bit of hooliganism.
You see, the neighbourhood I was touring had unmistakably been constructed by the same company throughout – if the mirrored two-story homes hadn’t made it clear, the consistent theming along the curbside would have. Every corner was adorned with an ornate faux-Victorian lamp, and every driveway had an identical wrought-iron-styled plastic mailbox at its end. It would have been a model community, if trash-bag mountains hadn’t gathered along the grassy edges, only to be ripped into, at a later date, by stray mutts.
I didn’t think much of the first of the exploded mailboxes. After a half-hour of additional wandering, though, I began to mark an irregular pattern. The original was a solitary act of vandalism on its block, but, as I progressed, I spotted a twin, then triplets.
Now, it’s the nature of the illness to notice everything. It’s also a symptom that everything seems to be sneaking up on you with a knife behind its back, but, still, you become unusually observant.
“Hoodlums,” I thought, but, as the density of the incidents increased, and their boldness obviously grew, I couldn’t ignore the worried voice which whispered constantly in my ear.
Tire tracks had peeled away from many of the decapitated pillars, and I was convinced that those responsible were thugs; true monsters, roaming the area looking for trouble to cause, and innocently-insane pedestrians to harass.
Worse, while some doors swung wide and empty, and no yard remained manicured, I felt uncomfortably certain of the occasional curtain-twitch, but the back-to-back-to-back fences left me with little place to hide. To my embattled brain, it was walk or die.
The sporadic executions grew thicker. Eventually, I came to a series of homes, painted in soft earth tones, that had their greeney torn up by marauding tires, and every one of their poles beheaded.
Despite the evidence of rain and weather upon the scattered letters and fliers, I was sure the brutes were close – and I wasn’t wrong.
I found them around the next turn.
It’s hard to say what the motivation was – perhaps the nutter had thought the postman was attempting to deliver anthrax – but, whatever the case, the plague had driven one of the local homeowners to rig a handgun within their mailbox, and they’d done a solid job of it.
There was a behemoth of a white convertible cadillac beside the trap, which had idled till its tank emptied. The backseat was likely brimming with plastic Pepsi bottles at the beginning of the run, but the pair of corpses had been industrious, and, by the time I encountered them, there were only a few scattered on the rear floor-mats. The other components for their simple explosives had been left sitting on the dash.
The driver-side door was swept wide, and its occupant lying on the pavement, not twenty feet away. His eyes were blank, and his cheeks were hollow with advancing decay. He wore a black hooded sweatshirt, but I couldn’t make out the skateboard company’s logo through the blood. His shoulder had caught the bullet, giving him a bit of a chance to crawl away, but his partner, slumped against the windshield, wasn’t so lucky. His right eye had been vaporized and no small amount of his brain matter hung from the vehicle’s fuzzy dice.
Both looked to be about twelve.
They were joyriders, and nothing more, likely abandoned by crazed, or dead, parents. It becomes difficult, upon reflection, to begrudge anyone even the most miscreant joys, when considered against the backdrop of Hitchcock’s.
“Walk or die”, said my sick mind – so I did.
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