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FP384 – The Scarred Man: a Blackhall Tale

Blackhall: A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Scarred Man: a Blackhall Tale

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow in the Dark Radio

 

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 join Thomas Blackhall, master frontiersman and student of the occult, as he encounters an undying combatant by a lonely northern lake.

 

The Scarred Man: a Blackhall Tale

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

 

Blackhall met the immortal on the edge of a lake known by the few who occasionally wandered its shores as the Blue Sip. He’d seen naught but the intermittent chipmunk in his last three days of journey through the heavy undergrowth, and, in his stop, he’d been seeking nothing more than a moment of cool respite from his westward campaign to retrieve the dancing corpse of his dead wife.

The immortal, however, had been seeking nothing more than Blackhall.

Thomas had been considering the state of his preparations to break the hold of the hag who led Mairi through the shadowed wildwoods when the lumbering titan arrived.

He had dealt with giants and their ilk in the past, but never while standing naked in three feet’s water. Still, though the man was tall, and his musculature so over-large to be almost a caricature of human form, Blackhall soon realized he was no giant.

The stranger wore a cloak and carried a shotgun at his shoulder, which Thomas felt likely to be heavy and hot gear for the depth of the timber and harshness of sun. The interloper was in apparent agreement, as his first action upon arrival was to drop both.

“I was born as Nikanor, some three millennia past,” he said as he laid aside a sheathed blade too big to be a knife but too short to be a modern sword.

The sight of the weapon, even in being set aside, did little more than remind Blackhall of the distance to his own silver-edged sabre, which lay among his gear on the shoreside. It was too far – and the shotgun too close – for the frontiersman’s liking.

“I was born Thomas some few dozen years ago,” was the best the could find for an answer.

For a moment Nikanor looked puzzled, then a slow smile came to his ground sausage lips. His face appeared to have suffered and survived a half-dozen cleavings, and his skull was roughly misshapen with the scar tissue that had grown across the wounds.

“I know who you are, shaman,” he replied. “I have marched from the coast to meet you. Funny that it should be here, for my journey began, in many ways, in a very different bit of water – the Styx. My mother was a proud strumpet and a glory of her age. She was also a genius at the bargaining table. The gods of the time on the other hand, were naught but letches, and there came a day when Zeus himself came to our door.

“She turned him away a full three times, then offered herself up under two specific conditions.

“That is how her only child, a lowly army footman of sixteen, came to find himself dipped, much like Achilles, in the Styx – but Mother was well aware of the tales, and so demanded I be held by my hair. I have been bald since, but my heels are in grand order.”

As he spoke, the Greek had stripped back the loose cloth of his shirt to reveal a form that reminded Thomas most of a picture book knight. Instead of the gleam of full plate, however, the man was a mass of cratered sinew and flesh grown deep from the brutality of ten thousand traumas. Wound had healed atop of wound until the layering was so thick it stood tall from the bone and took on the aspect of a natural leather armour.

The thick cords of his neck, though still showing signs of damage, were considerably less worn, and it was to a long white defect that Nikanor pointed as he sat upon a fallen tree and said, “this was one of my first, a battle with a raiding warlord coming in over the northern border. I laughed every moment of the march, thinking I was invincible. Not quite – I am perhaps immortal, but I am still penetrable. I’d caught a ragged sliver of metal the rabble were calling weapons before I realized the difference. It hurt too – enough so that I killed at least fifty on the field as my reply.

“It healed in a day, but that day was agony.

“We patrolled again that spring, and for many seasons on – until we met the Laconians on in open meadow and I learned that I alone could not turn the tide of battle. Every man I had admired or dreaded, every friend I’d made in my brief career, every idiot I’d bickered with, was wiped from the Earth in a single encounter.

“Left for dead, my butchered body was only capable of standing two days after the scavenger birds had arrived to pull their dinner from my comrades’ cheeks.

“I could not return as the sole survivor of a massacre without being accused of cowardice, but I knew just one life. It did not take me long to create a new identity and reenlist, and the evidence of my wounds acted as all the biography I required. The cycle has repeated itself many times since.

”Every pot of boiling oil, every flight of arrows, every dagger gash acted to toughen my skin. By the time I fought with the Scots against your countrymen I needed little more protection than to leave my flesh bare, for it took a man with a true arm of steel, and a clear opportunity, to pierce my scarred disfigurement.

“I rarely met the first, and I was too well practiced to allow for the second.”

No longer was Blackhall concerned about the proximity of his blade. The turn of the tale had set his mind casting ahead in search of its conclusion, and he did not like what he’d found.

http://www.skinner.fm/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Blackhall.jpgThe tone was too heavy, the setting too inevitable. He had killed before, and would again in self-defense, but his own time under the King’s command had long washed a taste for violence from his mouth.

“Niko,” he asked, “what was the other condition?”

Turning his gaze from a cloud on the horizon, the deathless man answered, “the other what?”

“You said your mother had two conditions, and that your immortality was but one of them.”

“Oh – the other was that Zeus remain human in shape. She was well read and had no interest in the legends of beasts and fowl.”

“The gods of antiquity truly were perverts.”

That got another smile from the old soldier, but it could not stop his momentum.

“None of the kings I helped rise to the throne remained,” he continued. “Their names are as forgotten as their kingdom’s borders. The maps shift like sands, and my travels have proven to me there is little more difference between peoples than the foods they have at hand and the god they pray to before eating it.

“Yet I’ve killed them all.

“Many things happen in such a span as mine. Many mistakes are made in rage or fear or a moment’s reaction. My condition allows no release from those errors, simply more opportunity to compound them.

“I have lost count at points – I am sure I have lived more than three thousand years – but it is in just these last twelve months that my agony has taken hold. Hired on to lay low some sheep thieves while waiting for the summer’s march, I set my shot into a figure in the dark and killed a boy of sixteen. It was meant to be just another victory, but – well, perhaps it is only because I have come so far from my youth that I can no longer remember its exact image, but I swear his face was my own at that age.

“Even before the arcane began to flow from the world I had come to the realization that there was little point in continuing. There is no end to the fighting, and all I’m left with is confusion. Please, do you have a method by which to end my misery?”

The words moved over the water with the weight of a voice that had seen the worst of three thousand years, and Blackhall found the damp suddenly all too chill.

Thomas’ mind landed in the streets of Ciudad Rodrigo, then flew to the death of his own wife, and finally came to rest on his growing guilt at the distance between he and his child.

If he was ever to be forgiven, could not, too, the evils of a being whose mettle might achieve so much good?

“Could I end you?” asked Blackhall, “yes, probably.

“Will I? No.

“I’ll instead come ashore, and we shall plan you a new life between mouthfuls of jerky. This existence I promise will provide remittance from your guilt if you are strong enough to manage it.”

“To what purpose?”

“To what purpose any birth? You say you are confused, well, so too are all bairns. I will say, though, that what I have in mind will be a truly great purpose – but, to begin, you will construct and stock a homestead of some size.”

“I have no idea how to farm.”

“Well, we are in luck in that regard, as your condition allows us plenty of time for you to learn.”

The conversation carried well into the night, and it would be but the first of a long acquaintance.

 

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.

FPSE23 – The Myth of the Big Game

Tonight we bring you a tale of the Collective Detective, the loose band of online detectives who mine the depths of the accidentally leaked NSA archives to solve long cold crimes. In this episode we find Bug Byte, editor and film buff, taking in a digital ghost story.

Welcome to Flash Pulp, special episode twenty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Myth of the Big Game

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites

 

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 relate to you a most dangerous urban legend from the sick beds of Capital City and beyond.

 

The Myth of the Big Game

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

 

A Skinner Co. Network Podcast
For more on this urban legend visit the Flash Pulp wiki!

 

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.

FC106 – Tales from Zebulon

FC106

FC106 - Tales from Zebulon

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Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 106.

Prepare yourself for: A warning about lady hurricanes, secret closet compartments, library lust, and Coffin.

* * *

Huge thanks to:

* * *

* * *

* * *

* * *

Audio-dacity of Hope:

  • Check out the new items on the store!
  • * * *

    Art of Narration:

  • Email Opop about Skinner Co. Ink at opopanax at skinner dot fm!
  • * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • FP386 – Coffin: Time to Consider
  • * * *

    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.

    FP383 – Coffin: Time to Consider

    Flash Pulp 383 - Coffin: Time to Consider - A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-three.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Time to Consider

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Glow in the Dark Radio

     

    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 Bunny Davis, roommate and apprentice to urban shaman Will Coffin, finds herself in conversation with his murderous dead wife.

     

    Coffin: Time to Consider

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

     

    Bunny found her newly obtained sobriety often made the apartment she shared with the Coffin a stuffy one. Rarely, however, did she step onto the balcony for air.

    That Thursday there just wasn’t anything bad enough on TV to keep her attention, and her legs kept pulling her up from the couch before she realized she had nowhere to go. Books were stared at, but the words held no meaning in spite of multiple attempts. Worse, her appetite had abandoned her entirely, and she knew more alternating between opening cupboards and the fridge door would only give her mouth the satisfaction of expelling another long string of obscenities.

    So she went outside.

    Eighteen stories below, the shattered form of her roommate’s dead wife began the ascent that marked the sole objective the apparition ever held in mind when she moved from the cracked cement upon which she’d died.

    Even without Will on hand to attempt to murder, still Sandy made the climb.

    Despite the distance between them, Bunny had no issues hearing the phantasm’s broken-windpipe whisper.

    “Is he sleeping?” asked Sandy.

    “Yeah.”

    “It’s almost 4pm.”

    “I can take a message if you like.”

    “It doesn’t make you uncomfortable to live in the apartment in which his wife died?”

    “Like, when there’s a dead lady rotting on the balcony, or just generally?”

    At that point the conversation had gone as far as it ever had, and Bunny was tempted to again head back inside. Instead she finally gave in to her curiosity – or perhaps she’d simply grown accustomed enough to the climber’s trail of broken nails and mashed finger meat to stay.

    Whatever the case, she asked “why do you bother?”

    Pausing beside a frost-covered window on the seventh floor, Sandy gave her taut shoulders an oddly familiar shrug.

    She said, “let me tell you a story.

    “Will and I, back in the early days, stumbled across a couple of star-crossed idiot teens, Vincent and Rosa. I guess it happens in every generation, but we’re talking about the sort of kids who would read too much into Romeo and Juliet while listening to Don’t Fear the Reaper on loop.

    “They died in ‘71 in a Georgia backwater. He was scheduled to head to the Navy at the end of the summer, as his birthday was in September and his parents thought it would better if he picked a boat job rather than involuntarily backpack through the Vietnamese interior. Her parents couldn’t have been happier, and were really just hoping she wouldn’t get pregnant before the garbage man’s son was safely overseas.

    “The problem started one humid August evening while they were making out and telling each other deep thoughts in the upper branches of the oak tree they considered “their spot.” I guess it was overlooking an old rail bridge, and they caught a brief flash of a transparent jumper. Back then that was the most you could ever hope to see of a haunt, but I guess they found something romantic in the way the pilgrim-looking girl had apparently gone over without hesitation.

    “News from the war was pretty rough, so Vinnie was sure he wasn’t coming back if they shipped him – and, frankly, Rosa was sure she’d die simply from being apart from him.

    “They talked until it was dark and they were exhausted, then they settled on the age old tradition of a lovers’ suicide pact.

    “Saying good night with endless dedications to each other, they went home. It was then that Rosa stole the cyanide bottle from her mom’s amateur photo development kit.

    “Once their households were asleep, however, they both crept from their beds, put on their most impressive band t-shirts, and snuck to a meadow on the southside of town.

    “Her hands were shaking too bad, so she asked for help with the spoon. They kissed and cried and swallowed the powder.

    “It was Vincent, though, who couldn’t stay still. Cyanide is no easy way to go. Even as she’s collapsing he’s stumbling off with the notion that he’s got to puke away the pain and he doesn’t want to do it into his beloved’s lap.

    “Twenty feet over he collapses. They were found the next morning.

    “They thought they’d always be together in the afterlife, but twenty feet means a lot.

    “The meadow didn’t stay a meadow. A developer bought it and threw up a suburb which immediately went into decline. Rosa found herself half-beneath someone’s kitchen sink and half projecting into their front room, while Vincent was stuck on the floor of the garage next door.

    Flash Pulp 383 - Coffin: Time to Consider - A Skinner Co. Network Podcast“They could visit, but it took a huge effort and no matter how tightly they clung to each other the pull of death was – and is – ceaseless.”

    As if to demonstrate, Sandy grunted and shifted her bloodied finger tips between the building’s brickwork.

    She continued her story, but made no effort to scale any further.

    “Worse, by the time Will and I found them the neighbourhood had basically been abandoned, so they were left to weep in the ruins while being unable to see or talk to each other without great difficulty.

    “Actually, heh, we helped them by burning it all down. That was my – fortieth birthday? I remember Will turning to me while we watched it catch and telling me to make a wish before blowing out my candles.

    “Once they were free to yell at each other it took less than a year until things ran their course and they moved on just to get some space.”

    “Uh?” asked Bunny, her eyes unsure.

    “Never let twenty feet get between you, you never know what it’ll mean in the long run.”

    “Huh.”

    There was a pause then, and neither woman moved as they inspected the gray sky and silent horizon.

    Finally, Bunny asked, “I always got the impression you wanted him dead? I mean, that’s why you climb, right? Isn’t that why you spend the occasional afternoon rubbing your deadness against the locked balcony door and ####ing up my Saturday viewings of Captain Kaiju’s Monster Madness?”

    The phantom again gave that same shrug, and Bunny realized why it seemed so familiar: She’d seen it on her roommate’s shoulders a thousand times.

    “Look at me and tell me what exactly death means these days,” answered the specter. “If I was careful enough to keep him close, would it be so bad?”

    Yet, before Sandy might receive an answer, she allowed her form to drop to the pavement below and return to the position in which she’d expired. With the speed of a blink, her trail of gore followed.

    Suddenly Bunny was desperate for toast and the last of the peanut butter she’d seen hiding at the rear of the cupboard.

    She went inside.

     

    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.

    FPSE22 – The Queen’s Measure

    FPSE22 - The Queen's measure: A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, special episode twenty-two.

    Flash PulpTonight we present The Queen’s Measure

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites

     

    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 digress briefly from the universe we know so well to tell a tale of personal and universal truth in the lands of Sofia Esperon, Queen of the Hundred Kingdoms.

     

    The Queen’s Measure

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

     

    The signing of the final peace treaty enacted to unite the Hundred Kingdoms under the long reign of Queen Sofia Esperon took place on the tiered balconies that surrounded her castle atop the Mountain of Glass.

    Though she’d chosen the location amongst the gossamer spires to limit the number of spectators, penny chiselers, and scoundrels, the tradition of an open-air signing, before any who could make their way to attend, still drew forth such throngs that many would eventually claim to have slept along the translucent roadside who had, in actuality, made no effort to even depart their front door.

    However, the monk was one who did pass through the crystal gate.

    The self-proclaimed holy man was a wanderer who had trekked from the country of Quabbin to preach his doctrine of honesty, austerity, and fealty.

    Sofia saw him first from the shadowed depths of the humble carriage she used when it suited her purpose to move through her lands unnoticed. As the Queen and her handmaid, Ida, took the mood of the crowd and judged the rate the barley was flowing from the tent and barrel dwellings that had been erected as makeshift ale houses, they noted the monk’s thick voice cutting through the din of the multitude.

    He stood on the lip of the eastern fountain, and his waving arms shook his gray ecclesiastical robes as he spoke.

    “… for the cur, Mulhand the Colossus, was so brazen as to declare war against our one and true Lady, and though I would never speak against her decisions, Bargoth, God over all he surveys from his throne in the heart of the Sun, is clear that we should be honest in every way: Both in comment and action. Those of us who have always supported the Queen feel honestly that the Colossus does not deserve life, and Bargoth does not understand her mercy in allowing him to keep his head.”

    Though Esperon felt no pull in his philosophies, there was something in the nature of his statements that caught her ear and left her wanting to correct his misconception. She found herself reviewing his words even as she returned to the cool depths of her stables and the unassuming passage she used for discreet entrances.

    FPSE22 - The Queen's measure: A Skinner Co. Network PodcastHer first order of business upon stepping from her conveyance was to dispatch Ida to invite the monk to the feast at dusk, so that she might briefly converse with him between cups, then the regent set the matter from her mind and began to prepare for the afternoon’s ceremony.

    * * *

    The galleries of Queen Sofia Esperon’s castle held a thousand wonders collected from across the Hundred Kingdoms or constructed within the very walls themselves. The singing topiaries of the Blood Earth Garden were certainly well renowned; and many bawdy tales were told of the Crooked Feast Hall, whose floor would rise at its corner as the hour progressed so that even the most stubborn guest would tumble out its low-lying door by the chime of midnight.

    Still, there was perhaps no greater marvel than the Forest Ballroom, whose ever-lush grasses somehow offered footing as firm as any hardwood, and whose dimensions stretched far beyond the boundaries of the chamber that contained it.

    On that evening the orchestra had been instructed to climb to the glass walkways that stretched between the room’s massive sequoias, so that their instruments would reach as deep into the great woods as possible. Sofia knew that on an occasion of such size their melodies were often the sole method by which farflung partygoers might find the center of the room, and thus the exits.

    It was also often true that the Queen found the attentions required by the endless stream of diplomats and nobles exhausting, but she knew too well the need for direct consultation when ruling so vast and varied a kingdom.To better endure the hours of glad handing and political jockeying she had had several nests constructed amongst the trees, each accessible only through a combination of depressible knots set in the base of their respective trunks.

    It was atop one of these refuges that Ida found her ruler peering down from the edge of her leaf-cloaked perch.

    Ida, unencumbered by reputation or title, was free to dance her ears over the debates and scandals that spilled from wine-loosened tongues, but the tray-toters flowing through the crowd knew to be quick about nudging her in the direction of anything worthy of note.

    It was at the end of her recounting of wars probably only declared in jest and marriages probably only declared in drunkenness that the handmaid came to such an item.

    “Finally, Akulina and his orchestra seem quite agitated with the monk you invited. Apparently the fellow started in on the conductor with a lecture regarding the inappropriate nature of some of the forgotten meanings behind the songs you selected for the evening, which shifted into a larger sermon on the unnecessary extravagance of the party, and how Bargoth would think us all idiots for not standing in an actual forest.”

    Sofia sniffed. “Bargoth has never had to deal with rain on a high holiday, I suppose.”

    Burying her smirk, Ida replied, “I think it was the monk’s apparent intoxication that annoyed Akulina most. Hard to take speechifying on austerity seriously when you’ve nearly drowned yourself in another’s vineyard.”

    Nodding, Esperon moved to the couch at the rear of the platform. “I shall speak with him as soon as I rise. What hour are we?”

    “The sixteenth now,” answered Ida. “The Western delegation has retired, but the central kingdoms have yet to arrive. They know to leave plenty of cushion to prevent another incident.”

    The Queen hated to allow any interval to pass without her watch, but she found herself as weary as she had been after many a battle. The guests would simply assume she was at the far side of the party until she was rested enough to return.

    “How much do you have left in you?” she asked her attendant.

    “Oh, my excitement carries me nicely. I’ll be up till after the midday feast, at least,” replied the girl.

    Finally, Sofia gave her instructions with eyes already half-closed, “wake me if you tire or when they start laying out the cutlery. I’ll need a moment to bathe and effect a wardrobe change,” then she slept.

    * * *

    Four hours later the smell of roasted mutton wafted between the trees, but not so deep as to reach Ida and the Monk.

    They stood beside a fast moving brook, his back to the meal and his bulk surrounded by a cloud of sour grapes. With slurred insistence he alternated between demanding she do her best to make him most welcome in the absence of her lady and apologizing for his drunken state and forward behaviour. The rotation had kept Ida in retreat, but, with her spine against a drooping oak and his broad arms before her, she had no more ground to give.

    With sweat on his palms, the monk placed a hand upon her shoulder.

    Still, just as the revellers had been too hungry to note their absence, the pair were too fixated on their own concerns to notice the approach of their queen – and Sofia was glad she’d woken when she had: Though she appreciated Ida’s diplomacy and tact in not spilling blood on a treaty signing day, she knew the girl carried a well-honed stiletto beneath the cufflets at her delicate wrist.

    Striding through the meadow across which she’d spotted them, the Queen cast aside the hushed tone of festivity and unleashed the voice that had commanded her warbears and ballistas during the western campaigns.

    “You utter bile at the Colossus, and yet I can say this about the man I fought to a stand still amongst the poppies of the field they’ve since dubbed Esperon’s Boneyard: Whatever may happen between he and I in the future, Mulhand has been naught but obvious regarding his intentions at every step. I never asked for war, but he was always clear on enumerating his reasons and the consequences he foresaw.

    “All in moderation, you claim, but at the first opportunity your goblet overflows and you beg forgiveness for the spill. I have seen Mulhand drink as well, during the negotiations – as might be expected in a time of defeat – and he makes no claim he would not back up while sober.

    “Even when a lesser man would drown in his cups I have seen the knowledge that it is best to stumble to his pillow enter the Colossus’ eyes well before any mistaken statement has entered his mouth or errant thought has landed steel in his hand. He kept his promises of violence, and I expect he’ll keep his promises of peace.

    “You, however, are something even lower than an enemy. You speak sunshine and move your hands in darkness, and always with quick justification, be it divine or fermented. No, I can have no such close – I exile you sir.”

    She had closed the distance as she’d delivered her judgement, and she was now close enough to see the horror in the monk’s face.

    “M’lady!” he whispered in the cloying tone of practiced repentance, “all lands are yours – there is naught beyond the Hundred Kingdoms!”

    “Perhaps then Bargoth will be so kind as to provide you firmament upon which to land when we toss you from a pier and into the eastern salt,” she replied, drawing Ida to her side.

    The arrival of five of her Royal Guard acted as both the Queen and Ida’s final consideration of the matter, though no longer would the regent dare slumber until the doors were barred.

     

    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.

    FP382 – Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation

    Joe Monk, Emperor of Space

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

    Flash PulpTonight we present Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation

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    Download MP3

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by Nutty Bites

     

    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 the youth who will one day be ruler of the cosmos as he seeks privacy above an apparently barren rock.

     

    Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: Preservation

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

     

    Joe Monk, the last of Earth’s heirs, had spent the majority of his youth in the empty rooms and silent hallways of the ship that had birthed and nurtured him, but, in recent days, the spread of his reputation had called down followers like flies. He could no longer make out the gentle hum of the engine that had mothered him, much less bask in it.

    That was why, on an evening deep into his Council of Ten Stars educational tour, he found himself alone in a shuttle at the edge of his unexpected fleet.

    Not even Macbeth, his chief counsel, knew of his location – the craboid had been increasingly tight pincered about the human’s doings, and it was not in Joe’s psyche to listen to another hour of his mentor’s nagging.

    The armada, such as it was, was spread from the rings of the inner planet, Straws I, through to the very surface of the system’s sun. The halt had been announced to accommodate those ships requiring a hydrogen-rich source to refuel, but, as those crews conducted their gassing runs, the remaining vessels took the opportunity to jettison garbage and run basic maintenance.

    It was a backwater of the loneliest sort. Macbeth had complained that nobody would ever linger there unless they needed a pit stop – but the notion of that sort of solitude had been too alluring to the man who would eventually be emperor of all space.

    He could not have expected the distress call that would interrupt his isolation.

    At first he assumed the source was amongst the heaps that made up his caravan, as it would not be the first time an engine fire had spontaneously broken out on one of the third-hand craft that had been so deeply jury-rigged that their manufacturers would have been hard pressed to recognize their work, but his onboard computer tracked the weak signal to a source on the third moon of the nearby world.

    That put him closest by quite a distance; even with the shuttle’s underpowered thrusters he knew he’d be at the site well before the Egg could get itself turned around.

    Opening the throttle he dropped the fusion power plant into gear and grinned his way through the g-forces pinning him to his seat.

    He was flush with adrenaline as he set down and pulled on his suit, but somehow the subtle tendrils of prudence that had begun to infect the human’s maturing brain managed to fire off a quick “I’ve got this” message before he stepped through his refuge’s tiny airlock.

    The moon was little more than a barren ball of carbon dust, and that fact could not have made Joe happier. From horizon to horizon there was only a single visible stirring, and that was simply the slow red blink of a light some two hundred feet away.

    Joe Monk, Emperor of Space, a Science Fiction PodcastThere was room to run, and the forgiving gravity allowed Monk to turn a trip into a series of belly-laughing cartwheels.

    Still, he had presence of mind to strike a stoic pose as he pushed the large crimson button that the winking illumination acted to indicate.

    He could not read the signage scrawled across the tube that broke the surface, but he’d experienced enough alien skyscrapers and shipboard transportation to identify an elevator. As such, he stepped inside.

    The descent was rapid, but outside his stop all was blackness. He did not remove his helmet – he’d learned the hard way that an atmosphere does not always mean oxygen – yet even through the muffling layers he could hear a forlorn gurgling.

    Steeling himself he stepped into the dark, which immediately evaporated. Ceiling-mounted bundles of automated lights began to spread from his position, bringing into view a set of hallways stretching off on either side and a great window directly in front of him.

    The room beyond the glass also came alive, and within sat a massive being of stone and purple. It was hunkered low on its haunches, and the area on its chest that seemed to act as its face was buried in the broad rocky planes of its upper hands.

    Though Joe did not recognize its physiology, he could only interpret the crackling whimper that emanated from within the stranger’s round chest as the sound of tears.

    From behind the third door to Monk’s left, a large droid with a body like a vending machine rolled into the hall. It’s left side held a trio of arms, each with sharp implement at its end, and the right was dominated by a single thick limb toting a circular saw.

    It began to advance on him, its speakers grinding out a tongue the earthman could not comprehend, but which had certain unpleasant characteristics in common with his homeworld’s German.

    “I’m coming, big guy,” Joe told the window, but there was little at hand with which to defend himself.

    A second robot appeared then, this one tall and no thicker than a broom, though also on triangular treads. It approached the human with both arms extended, its grasping fingers raised.

    The monkey-cousin was too quick, however, and the pull of gravity too faint.

    Avoiding its probing pinches, Joe snatched the stick-bot and swung it hard over his head, shattering the bulbs above and plunging its base directly through the plastic panel that made up the box-droid’s chest.

    The sounds of combat brought the massive captive to a howl behind its barrier, even as those lights that were yet undamaged took on an erratic blink and sirens began to bleat throughout the complex.

    At the center of the chaos, Monk stood, legs planted, awaiting a second charge.

    Instead, beyond the carnage, the elevator delivered a calm bing.

    Before its passenger had even fully disembarked, Monk knew he was in trouble.

    “What are you doooooing!?” asked Macbeth in a tone that seemed to realize just all too well what it was he was doing.

    “I’m, uh, saving that guy,” answered Joe with a finger crooked towards the window.

    “That’s a Brindax, fecal-neurons! They go insane during the third portion of their life cycle and need to be saved FROM THEMSELVES. You haven’t almost rescued some pathetic prisoner, you’ve nearly freed a self-incarcerated madman!”

    Joe shrugged.

    “It – it was so dark, and he was, you know, crying, and these robots started coming at me…”

    “Yes, you’ve successfully managed to destroy thousands of credits worth of antique medical droids. Now get back to your shuttle or I swear I’ll make you repair them yourself.”

    Seconds later they were again on the surface, but little could either know that within months Monk would receive his first honourary doctorate. The spread of his tale was only the beginning of a galaxy-wide expose on the neglects of the Brindaxian health care system, though it would be but one more jewel in Monk’s crown.

     

    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.

    FC105 – Balticon Breakdown

    FC105

    FC105 - Balticon Breakdown

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    Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 105.

    Prepare yourself for: Mobicon, Bastian Bux, Cards Against Skinner Co., Tom Swift, time war, and missing the hell out of the Mob.

    * * *

    Huge thanks to:

    • All of the mobsters who came out for Mobicon. We love you all.

    * * *

    * * *

    * * *

    * * *

    Audio-dacity of Hope:

  • Check out the new items on the store!
  • * * *

    Art of Narration:

  • Email Opop about Skinner Co. Ink at opopanax at skinner dot fm!
  • * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • FP381 – Of Two Minds
  • * * *

    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.

    FCM018 – Oreoganza

    FCM018
    Welcome to Flash Pulp Minisode 018 – Oreoganza.

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    Download MP3
    (RSS / iTunes)

     

    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.

    FP381 – Of Two Minds

    KarWick

    Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and eighty-one.

    Flash PulpTonight we present Of Two Minds

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    This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo 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 enter a terrifying future with a full head of steam.

     

    Of Two Minds

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

     

    Despite his two-month stay being the longest they’d been separated, Leanne Frost had refused to enter the hospital to visit her only son, Andrew.

    Until that spring she’d never felt regrets about not birthing another. Now, while waiting for the slam of a car door in the silence of the kitchen with a mug of coffee in her hand and her eyes on the oven’s clock, she wondered briefly if she should have ever had any at all.

    The fight had begun with Andrew’s announcement. Leanne had always considered herself an open minded woman, and as such she’d refused to acknowledge what made her uncomfortable about his news.

    Court cases and news network coverage had often repeated that speaking ill of the displaced was an act of intolerance, but Leanne had long had suspicions that it was those same people who could afford to pay lawyers and anchors that were most likely to undertake the procedure.

    Instead, she’d latched onto the fact that it would mean taking a year or two before continuing his education. High school had been an easy affair for Andrew, but that had had more to do with his football skills than his academics. Leanne knew her son’s distaste for the written word, and she worried that the loss of focus would make it difficult for him to move on to college.

    They’d been sitting in the living room watching ancient mystery movies that Sunday morning, as had been their tradition since Leanne had divorced Andrew’s father, when, during a McCloud horse chase, he’d dropped his bomb

    She almost said, “I won’t allow any monsters in my home,” but fumbled to the more politically correct, “you are going to university! No son of mine is going to laze around leeching off some rusting embezzler!”

    “It’s murder not to!” he’d answered.

    Leanne had heard the idea argued before on hospital dramas, and she’d never thought herself a bigot, but in that moment she shook with a revulsion she hadn’t suspected of herself.

    She’d listened to the line echoed a hundred times since – if lives can be saved, shouldn’t they? Even if it was only those lives that could afford it?

    “How could anyone afford not to?” she asked her empty coffee mug.

    Two minutes later the screen door gave out its usual warning complaint, followed by the familiar closet shuffle and shoe kicking that marked Andrew’s entrance.

    The sound of his socked feet on the hardwood was enough to wring her stomach twice. She missed her baby.

    “Mom?” he asked.

    “In here,” she replied, but she could not bring herself to move away from the support of the kitchen counter.

    Leanne had known Andrew would not be alone when he entered, but the change in her child left her thankful for the strength of her perch.

    Jules Wilson had a vulture’s eyes, and the angle of his insertion had left the transplanted head with a constant look of hard scrutiny. The old man’s balding pate and wrinkled jowls did nothing to dispel the carrion eater association.

    Kar'Wick“Not in my house,” thought Leanne, but her mouth said nothing.

    Still, her face was readable even by the stranger.

    “I told you there’d be issues, Andy,” said the croaking attachment. “I understand what the contract says, but I still think everyone would be happier if we just went back to my place. There’s plenty of scotch handy and I’m sure we can find you some cute friends to invite over for the weekend.”

    Before Andrew’s mother could find her tongue to respond, however, the drawers flew wide and the cupboards took to flapping like shattered bird wings.

    Leanne would no longer have cause to worry about the path of her son’s life, and Wilson would be denied his immortality, for it was then, through the window above the sink, that the trio witnessed the rise of the black and gnarled carapace of Kar’Wick the Spider-God.

     

    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.

    FC104 – Chicken Livers

    FC104 - chicken Livers

    FC104 - Chicken Livers

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    (Download/iTunes/RSS)

    Hello, and welcome to FlashCast 104.

    Prepare yourself for: Drunk food, fan fic, solar powered cars, bronzed corpses, and Coffin.

    * * *

    Huge thanks to:

    * * *

    * * *

    * * *

    * * *

    Audio-dacity of Hope:

  • Check out the new items on the store!
  • * * *

    Art of Narration:

  • Email Opop about Skinner Co. Ink at opopanax at skinner dot fm!
  • * * *

    Backroom Plots:

  • Coffin: Looking Down
  • Joe Monk, Emperor of Space: The Cuckoos
  • Equity
  • * * *

    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.